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1 Corinthians 9:1-27 Study Guide


1 Corinthians 9

Opening: Chapter 9 in a nutshell: In this passage the apostle continued his thoughts on the importance of love and service over dogmatic doctrinal attitudes. He did so by illustrating from his own life the importance of serving others.  Just as Paul forfeited his right to be paid so the gospel might have greater success, the Corinthians should forfeit their rights to eat meat sacrificed to idols so they would not injure weaker brothers and sisters.[1]

Discussion 1: Read verses 1-18.

In these verses, Paul is using his own life to illustrate the central principle of love. He is entitled to certain privileges, but he doesn’t use them. Instead, Paul lays these privileges aside. Paul doesn’t ask for payment because he is not a pro, so he’s not legit. Paul’s response takes us back to what he has said in the earlier chapters. “I am free and belong to no man, yet I make myself a slave to everyone to win as many as possible.” and “Look if I need to become a vegetarian to best serve others…okay.” In these verses, he’s saying, “What you misinterpret as me thinking my work is inferior is really me showing how vitally important my work is… I’m willing to put up with extra pain, extra work, and to forgo my rights for your good.” He was doing all this to show them how to live.

  • In what ways do these verses, and the summary of them, challenge you?
  • What do Paul’s sacrifices teach us about living a gospel-centered life?
  • How does his example amplify the “Lens 13” principle?

Discussion 2: Read verse 19-23.

  • Summarize this passage in your own words. What is Paul’s point with this sports analogy?
  • Terry used the following quote from Dallas Willard when discussing this passage, “Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace, you know, does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone.” How does it relate to competing as an athlete? What are the implications for our walk with Christ?
  • How does the passage describe a balanced Christian life? How can we fall into imbalance?
  • Discuss the following statement Terry made, “Truth regardless of the consequences and love regardless of the cost.”

Discussion 3: Hold to the truth

  • Go back to verse 24-27. Paul uses an analogy of sports to make the point that we must train hard for the ultimate prize. So, think about your own life. Have you allowed yourself to become “soft”? Have you “retired” from the race to the cross?  Do you run aimlessly, in circles…going nowhere?  Do you run with energy, passion and effort, towards the cross?


[1] Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 148). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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