1Corinthians 9:16-23 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
‘I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.’ I have cause for glorifying since I preach the gospel without charge (9:15).
‘For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward.’ If I willingly cooperate with God I have a reward (9:25). If I fulfil my office by doing only my required duty, I have nothing to glory about. If I fulfil the office beyond the requirement of duty, I can claim special reward.
‘Dispensation’ [Greek: oikonomia] an administration; stewardship; the work of an oikonomos or steward (9:17; Luke 16:2-4; Eph. 1:10; 3:2; Col. 1:25). Five dispensations are named in Scripture: The dispensation or administration of the unjust steward (Luke 16:1-9). The dispensation of the gospel (1Cor. 9:17), which is Paul’s administration of the gospel of grace or the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph. 3:2). The dispensation of God (Col. 1:25 – God’s own administration of grace given to Paul). The dispensation of the fullness of times, in which God gathers together all things in heaven and in earth in Christ ridding the earth of all rebellion (Eph. 1:10; 1Cor. 15:24-28; Rev. 20:1-15).
Besides the dispensation of angels (Gen. 1:1; Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:11-17) and the eternal dispensation of the redeemed and faithful angels (Rev. 21-22; Isa. 66:22-24; 2Pet. 3:13), there are seven dispensations of man between the restoration of the earth from chaos (Gen. 1:3-2:25) to the New Heavens and the New Earth – The dispensations of Innocence (Gen. 3:1-24); Conscience (Gen. 4-8); Human Government (Gen. 9-11); Promise (Gen. 12:1 – Ex. 12:36); Law (Ex. 12:37 – Matt. 3); Grace (Matt. 3:1 – Rev. 19-21) and of Divine Government or the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-15).
‘For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.’ I live free from all obligations to men, yet I serve every man as if I were his personal slave. I do this to gain him.
‘I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews.’ Paul did his best to win the Jews (9:20; Rom. 9:1-3), but when it came to compromising the gospel and teaching law keeping as necessary to salvation, there he drew a line (Gal. 2:1-21).
‘To them that are without law, as without law … that I might gain them that are without law.’ I do not hold myself aloof from them, but live like them in order to gain them (Gal. 1:16; 2:2-21).
‘To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak.’ Those who had scruples and were weak in the faith I did not cause to stumble by doing things which would violate their weak conscience (8:1-13; 10:16-33; Rom. 14:1-15:3).
‘I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.’ I did everything in my power to be like those I tried to win, except to enter into sin with them (9:22-23).