First Corinthians – Part 21
Last time we looked at chapter 8 and saw that Paul took very seriously the doctrine of the “stumblingblock”, indeed he even said that it was a sin to use freedom in such a way that it causes a brother to perish.
KJV 1 Corinthians 8:13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
TBT 1 Corinthians 8:13 διόπερ εἰ βρῶμα σκανδαλίζει τὸν ἀδελφόν μου, οὐ μὴ φάγω κρέα εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα, ἵνα μὴ τὸν ἀδελφόν μου σκανδαλίσω.
Eating flesh offered to an idol (which was nothing in the world) in itself was perfectly permissable and was a freedom that those who had enlightened knowledge could enjoy — but doing so in the presence of a weaker brother was not just a mistake but a sin.
Today we will begin on chapter 9 where Paul answers those who examine him.
The apostle now continues the same theme by applying the same ideas expressed in chapter 8 to his own apostleship.
KJV 1 Corinthians 9:1 Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
Paul was indeed an apostle — he had seen the Lord and received direct instruction from Him. He was free from subserviance to the world and doctrines of devils and used his authority to bring the Corinthians to the Lord. His freedom was assured despite the fact that he chose not to exercise the authority he had.Just because he put others needs first did not mean that he was not free.
2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
TBT 1 Corinthians 9:2 εἰ ἄλλοις οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος, ἀλλά γε ὑμῖν εἰμι· ἡ γὰρ σφραγὶς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀποστολῆς ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Κυρίῳ. (1Co 9:2 TBT)
The greek word σφραγὶς is the seal or signet by which a certification was made. It is used mainly in the book of revelation and three times by Paul in Rom 4:11, 1 Co. 9:2 and 2 Tim. 2:19. Paul makes it clear that the Corinthian assembly was the very evidence of his own apostleship. The fact that he might constrain his rights and freedoms as an apostle does not diminish the reality that he was in truth an apostle. Just as in the last chapter a christian who chose to put the needs of a brother before his own freedom did not remove the fact that he was indeed free!
3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
TBT 1 Corinthians 9:3 ἡ ἐμὴ ἀπολογία τοῖς ἐμὲ ἀνακρίνουσιν αὕτη ἐστί. (1Co 9:3 TBT)
4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?
5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?
Clearly people were examining Paul, and he gave an apologia or verbal defense in reply — we should consider these defenses carefully and see how we also can make good defenses of the doctrine and practice we are involved with.
The lemma for ἀπολογία gives the following search results: Acts 22:1, Acts 25:16, 1 Co. 9:3, 2 Co. 7:11, Phil. 1:7, 17, 2 Tim. 4:16, 1 Pet. 3:15 — clearly an important part of Paul’s ministries and one which we should prayerfully develop. The defense begins with questions — have we not authority — or the power that originates from apostolic authority to eat and to drink? Paul elaborates on this in other places and it should give us good reason to pause about how we use similar freedoms today
13 ¶ Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
(Rom 14:13-23 KJV)
Other apostles had wives with them on their missionary trips as did the Lord’s earthy brothers including Cephas (Peter). Therefore the fact that Paul and Barnabas did not do these things reflects an overiding need that meant that these freedoms while present were not exercised.
6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
Paul and Barnabas had the authority not to work, he then gives further questions to provoke why this would normally make sense — a person fighting in a battle needs to be paid and looked after with clothes etc a farmer is expected to eat of the fruit that he nurtures and similarly with the flock. These are all examples from a man’s experience of life and living.
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
Yes as a man we see these truths but there is more — the authority of the law:
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
There are some who would say that the Law has nothing of value for us who are Gentiles in this age of grace — this is a little short sited — these same things that are associated with everyday observation are also written into the law and given spiritual elevation to ideas that should be commonly held by people “For our sakes no doubt”. In so doing they give us principles that are inter dispensational.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
TBT 1 Corinthians 9:12 εἰ ἄλλοι τῆς ἐξουσίας ὑμῶν μετέχουσιν, οὐ μᾶλλον ἡμεῖς; ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ ἐχρησάμεθα τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ ταύτῃ· ἀλλὰ πάντα στέγομεν, ἵνα μὴ ἐγκοπήν τινα δῶμεν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ. (1Co 9:12 TBT)
Paul has more right to exercise this authority however he does not wish to place an obstacle in the way of the gospel.
13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.
Paul uses what is known to establish the rightful use of their support BUT he used none of these things — he did not write these things to gain material benefit and be supported by them.
16 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!
17 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. (1Co 9:1-17 KJV)