Have We No Rights?
1 Corinthians 9:1-27
This week’s lessons remind us of the pricelessness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The first qualification for an apostle was that he be a witness of the Lord’s life and ministry. The second qualification is also defined in the first chapter of Acts. An apostle had to be a person chosen specifically by Christ himself. Now this created a problem for Paul because Paul was converted after Christ’s ascension. Paul had been around at the time of Jesus Christ, but he had not been one of the disciples that had followed him throughout the days of his earthly ministry, and certainly not from the beginning at the time of his baptism by John. There were people who, perhaps rightly on the basis of that understanding of who an apostle should be, said that Paul really was not an apostle, that he was a person who had come along later and who had made claims to some special kind of revelation, that all he was really teaching was the traditions of men and not the Gospel. So, again and again in Paul’s writings and particularly in the book of Galatians, Paul had to insist that he was an apostle, because his apostleship was under attack among the Galatian churches.
The qualifications were fulfilled in him, though in a slightly different way from that spoken of in the earliest days of the Christian church. To prove he fulfilled the first qualification, Paul stresses he actually had seen the Lord. He had not been with him all three years, but he does say here in the ninth chapter and on other occasions, “Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord?” To prove the second qualification, the Apostle Paul always referred to his experience on the road to Damascus when Jesus stopped him in his tracks as he was on his way to persecute the Christians and commissioned him to be an apostle to the Gentiles. He then adds another proof because he wants to bring it home to them in a personal way. He asks, “Look, not only have I seen the Lord, not only did he choose me to be an apostle, but are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Are you not the seal of my apostleship? I came to you as an apostle and God worked through me in such a powerful way that you came to faith. So, the very fact that you’re a Christian itself is a seal upon who I am.”
Having made the case that he is in fact an apostle, he goes on to speak about the rights of an apostle, building his argument in a very logical way. He talks about two of them. One is the right to get married. He says that some apostles were married, and as they went around, they took their wives with them. He says this was true of the Lord’s brothers and of Cephas, that is, Peter. And yet, the point he is making is that he himself, in his own experience for the sake of the Gospel in order that he might be more effective as he traveled from place to place in an unfettered manner, had foregone the right to have a wife. Next, he describes a second right of an apostle: to have adequate support. If he is spending all his time serving the churches through the preaching of the Gospel and in missionary work as he takes that Gospel to other places in the Roman world, he has the right to be supported by the Christian community. Now, it might be at that point that people in Paul’s day thought the same way people think in our day. Generally, people today do not say, “Preachers don’t have a right to live.” They just say, “Well, they don’t have a right to live well.” It seems that Paul was facing something of that argument here, so he begins to talk at length about this right.
What was the second qualification of an apostle?
For what reasons did people not consider Paul to be qualified? How did some churches react to him?
How does Paul defend his apostleship?
What two rights does Paul specifically address?
Many people believe that pastors and missionaries do not have the right to live as well as the rest of us. Do you hold back from giving generously to your church? Why? God will provide for the needs of your pastor, but he has chosen to do so through you.