What does 1 Corinthians 9:9 mean?
ESV: For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?
NIV: For it is written in the Law of Moses: 'Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.' Is it about oxen that God is concerned?
NASB: For it is written in the Law of Moses: 'YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE IT IS THRESHING.' God is not concerned about oxen, is He?
CSB: For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain. Is God really concerned about oxen?
NLT: For the law of Moses says, 'You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.' Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this?
KJV: For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
NKJV: For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about?
Verse Commentary:
Paul is building his case that, as an apostle of Jesus, he has the right to demand financial support from those he serves with the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:1–7). This would include the Corinthians. They know well that he has not claimed this right from them. This, of course, is the real point of Paul's argument here: that it is good for a believer to sacrifice their "rights" for the good of other believers (1 Corinthians 8:7–13).

Here, Paul turns to the Old Testament law of Moses to show legal precedent for this right. He quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 to show the restriction against muzzling an ox when it is treading out the grain. Farmers were not allowed to prevent the ox from feeding on the grain it was helping to process. Since the ox's labor was what produced that grain in the first place, it was only fair—and sensible—for the ox to be supported by the fruits of that labor. This fits Paul's principle: it is most natural for apostles, workers, and even oxen to be paid from the work they are doing.

This verse also adds a question about whether God is concerned about oxen. The most obvious answer is that, yes, God is concerned enough about oxen that he sees to their well-being. As shown in the following verse, Paul's implication is yet another question: how much more must God be concerned about the wellbeing of apostles?

Bible scholars suggest several alternate understandings about Paul's question here, but his main point is clear: Those who do the work have the right to be supported by the work, including apostles. In this specific context, Paul uses this to show that he is living out the teaching he gave in the prior passage.
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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