1 Corinthians 9:1-3
Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not you my work in the Lord?…
This chapter grows out of the noble utterance of self denial with which the previous one closes. The apostle illustrates and enforces the duty of curtailing our liberty in things indifferent for the sake of weaker brethren, by a reference to his own example in foregoing the right of maintenance by the Church. Was he not free? Had he not all the rights belonging to Christians, unfettered by obligations to men? Nay, more, was he not an apostle? At Corinth, as elsewhere, there were some who questioned the full apostolic authority of Paul, on the ground that he was not one of the twelve; and his self denial seems to have been turned into an argument against him. It was insinuated that he refrained from asking the support of his converts, as the other apostles were in the habit of doing, because he was conscious of his inferiority. It is apparently for this reason that he here presents the marks of his apostleship.
I. HE HAD SEEN JESUS THE LORD. There is no evidence that he had seen Jesus in the days of his flesh, but the reference is mainly to the appearance near Damascus (Acts 9:4-6). On that occasion the Lord met him and gave him his commission as an apostle; and this was regarded as an essential mark of apostleship in the highest sense, as we see from the election of Matthias (Acts 1:22; comp. 1 Corinthians 15:8). In this respect the apostles can have no successors. The office was a special and temporary one, needful for the planting and organizing of the Church, and was intended to expire with the men who held it. Having set the house in order, they were to deliver the keys to the ordinary servants who were left in charge. Still, every one whom Christ sends forth to do his work must first have had the sight of him that faith gives. Only when we have beheld him in his glory, invested with "all authority in heaven and on earth," and heard from his lips the cult to go forth, shall we feel ourselves clothed with power as his ambassadors (comp. Isaiah 6.; Matthew 28:18, 19).
II. THE CORINTHIAN CHRISTIANS WERE THE SEAL OF HIS APOSTLESHIP. Whatever reason others might have for questioning his standing, they at least had none; for as the instrument of their conversion, he could point to them as "his work in the Lord." The power which accompanied his preaching, and which had wrought so mighty a change in them, was a proof that he had not run unsent. This of itself did not prove apostleship in the high sense in which Paul claimed it, but it proved that the Lord was with him. This kind of evidence requires to be adduced with caution, inasmuch as it is difficult for us to estimate the real success of a ministry; but where there are unmistakable proofs of the conversion of sinners and the edification of saints, we are warranted in viewing these as the seals of our mission. In seeking these high ends, we are doing truly apostolic work. Happy the minister who can say to his congregation, "Ye are my work in the Lord"! - B.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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?