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1 Corinthians 9:17 (NASB)

For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.

What does Paul mean when he compares voluntarily preaching the Gospel with preaching “against [his] will”? What does it mean for him to preach the Gospel against his will, and what does that have to do with stewardship entrusted to him?

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If you read "ἄκων" as "unwilling" as most current version do, then that makes this a bit easier to understand what he means.

Paul is not claiming that his preaching is unwilling, but is offering a hypothetical: but if (εἰ). What he is saying, that his will is irrelevant on whether he preaches the Bible or not - he is obliged to since that (preaching the gospel) is his obligation (or stewardship.)

This serves as a contrast to that which he has a choice in, and which is the core thing he speaks of here - Paul's refusal to accept support from the Corinthians.

15 But I have used none of these things. And I have not written these things so that it will be done so in my case; for it would be better for me to die than that. No one shall make my boast an empty one! 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast about, for I am under compulsion; for woe to me if I do not preach the gospel. 17 For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a commission nonetheless. 18 What, then, is my reward? That, when I preach the gospel, I may offer the gospel without charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.

Paul can boast of not being a burden to the Corinthians, since that is his choice and liberty. In contrast, he is obliged to preach to the gospel: "woe to [him] if [he] do[es] not preach the gospel"

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  • Very helpful answer, thank you! The comparison of preaching the Gospel v. Receiving money from preaching makes so much sense. Thanks again! Apr 8, 2022 at 15:00
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1 Co 9:16 makes emphasis that Paul (by God's Spirit of conviction) must preach the gospel. This is fulfilling the Royal Law and loving your neighbor as yourself.
1 Co 9:17 means If he does this willingly (a cheerful giver) of the gospel then he has a reward in heaven, but if his fleshly will desires not to be so cheerful it will be hard for him to properly give out the gospel.

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