Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2 If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you, because you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 My defense to those who examine me is this: 4 Don’t we have the right to eat and drink? 5 Don’t we have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife[a] like the other apostles, the Lord’s brothers, and Cephas? 6 Or do only Barnabas and I have no right to refrain from working? 7 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?
8 Am I saying this from a human perspective? Doesn’t the law also say the same thing? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Do not muzzle an ox while it treads out grain.[b] Is God really concerned about oxen? 10 Isn’t he really saying it for our sake? Yes, this is written for our sake, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes should thresh in hope of sharing the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it too much if we reap material benefits from you? 12 If others have this right to receive benefits from you, don’t we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right; instead, we endure everything so that we will not hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Don’t you know that those who perform the temple services eat the food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the offerings of the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should earn their living by the gospel.
15 For my part I have used none of these rights, nor have I written these things that they may be applied in my case. For it would be better for me to die than for anyone to deprive me of my boast! 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because I am compelled to preach[c]—and woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this willingly, I have a reward, but if unwillingly, I am entrusted with a commission. 18 What then is my reward? To preach the gospel and offer it free of charge and not make full use of my rights in the gospel.
19 Although I am free from all and not anyone’s slave, I have made myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win Jews; to those under the law, like one under the law—though I myself am not under the law[d]—to win those under the law. 21 To those who are without the law, like one without the law—though I am not without God’s law but under the law of Christ—to win those without the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, in order to win the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some. 23 Now I do all this because of the gospel, so that I may share in the blessings.
24 Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize. 25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable crown. 26 So I do not run like one who runs aimlessly or box like one beating the air. 27 Instead, I discipline my body and bring it under strict control, so that after preaching to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Warnings from Israel’s Past
Now I do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless God was not pleased with most of them, since they were struck down in the wilderness.
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, so that we will not desire evil things as they did.[e] 7 Don’t become idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and got up to party.[f][g] 8 Let us not commit sexual immorality as some of them did,[h] and in a single day twenty-three thousand people died. 9 Let us not test Christ as some of them did[i] and were destroyed by snakes. 10 And don’t complain as some of them did,[j] and were killed by the destroyer.[k] 11 These things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the ages[l] have come. 12 So, whoever thinks he stands must be careful not to fall. 13 No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; he will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.
Warning against Idolatry
14 So then, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. 15 I am speaking as to sensible people. Judge for yourselves what I am saying. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, since all of us share the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel.[m] Do not those who eat the sacrifices participate in the altar? 19 What am I saying then? That food sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, but I do say that what they[n] sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons! 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot share in the Lord’s table and the table of demons. 22 Or are we provoking the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
25 Eat everything that is sold in the meat market, without raising questions for the sake of conscience, 26 since the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it.[q] 27 If any of the unbelievers invites you over and you want to go, eat everything that is set before you, without raising questions for the sake of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This is food from a sacrifice,” do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience.[r] 29 I do not mean your own conscience, but the other person’s. For why is my freedom judged by another person’s conscience? 30 If I partake with thanksgiving, why am I criticized because of something for which I give thanks?
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, 33 just as I also try to please everyone in everything, not seeking my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved.