Friday, 29 August 2014
Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?1 Corinthians 9:1
This first verse of chapter 9 appears to both look back to the concluding statement of chapter 8 and also forward to the main subject area of chapter 9 which concerns Paul’s apostleship. Looking back, he has just noted that “if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” Even as an apostle, which indicates that he had personally seen and been commissioned by the Lord, he was willing to make such a concession for his “weaker” brethren. If he was willing to give up such rights in this way, it should be considered an example for those in Corinth.
Looking forward, there are those who may have questioned his apostleship, something he will immediately defend in order to dispel such a thought. Additionally, there are those who may have felt he was abusing his rights, overstepping his authority, or unnecessarily inserting himself into their local affairs. He will defend himself concerning these and other issues as he progresses through the chapter.
And so to begin, he asks rhetorically, “Am I not an apostle?” In essence he is saying, “I am an apostle.” He meets the requirements of apostleship and he carries the commission of the office. Continuing, he asks, “Am I not free?” Elsewhere, he calls himself “a bondservant of Christ.” This is not what he is speaking of, but rather that he has the freedom found in Christ that all other Christians also possess, including those freedoms which belong to the office of apostle. He should be free from working for money, but rather should be paid for his ministry. However, he will discuss later why he didn’t exercise that right. This is the type of freedom he speaks of.
After that, a third rhetorical question, “Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” The answer is with all certainty, “Yes.” He saw the Lord on the road to Damascus; he saw Him in Arabia (as can be inferred from Galatians 1:17); he saw Him in Jerusalem (see Acts 22:17); he saw Him there at Corinth (see Acts 18:9); and, he had seen Him at least one other time as well (see 2 Corinthians 12:1). In having seen the Lord and been commissioned personally by Him (see Acts 9:15, 16), he met the necessary requirements of the office of Apostle.
Finally in this verse, he asks, “Are you not my work in the Lord?” The answer is surely once again, “Yes.” He established the church in Corinth and was their “father” in the faith as he noted earlier in this epistle –
“I do not write these things to shame you, but as my beloved children I warn you. For though you might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.” 1 Corinthians 4:15, 16
Paul is taking the time to note that he bears the apostolic authority because he meets the requirements of an apostle. He is doing this in order to logically defend his words and his position on important matters. All of this can ultimately be traced back to the beginning thoughts of the epistle which spoke of divisions within the church. As an apostle, he was working for harmony within the church, not divisions. There is one Lord and He is not divided. Therefore, in order to demonstrate that his words were intended as a unifying and valid set of instructions, he is taking the time to defend his position as an apostle.
Life application: There are certain requirements necessary in order to claim the title of “apostle.” These were for a set duration of time known as the “apostolic age” of the church. There are no longer any true apostles within the church and people claiming such a title only demonstrate that they are not qualified to bear the title because they have not properly understood the very basis for claiming the title. Hold fast to what is sound and in accord with Scripture and don’t be led astray by those who make claims to titles which sound impressive, but which bear no weight or authority.
Lord God, I do not mind doing menial labor or taking on otherwise seemingly boring jobs. You have given us this world in which we live and if someone doesn’t pick up the trash, then Your world will be trashy. If someone doesn’t clean the restrooms, then the restrooms of Your church won’t be pleasant. If the trees don’t get trimmed, then the house will appear shabby. Whatever work I do, I know that it can be something to reflect Your order, intent for that which is beautiful, and also a willing heart to not be proud or lifted up. In all my tasks, I will endeavor to bring You honor and glory so that others see it and praise You. Amen.