1 “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? 2IfI am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”
In chapter nine, Paul turns to illustrations of how he personally limited his liberty for the sake of weaker brothers in Christ.
Paul gives six reasons why he had the right to financial support in chapter nine:
He was an apostle, 9:1-6
Workers deserve pay, 9:7
It is consistent with God’s Word, 9:8-11
Others exercise this right, 9:12
It is a widespread pattern, 9:13
Jesus directed it, 9:14
Paul asks four rhetorical questions with the expectation of an answer of “yes.” By firing these four pithy questions like a machine gun, without waiting for an answer, he asserts that he has legitimate rights.
Am I not an apostle?
Paul was the great apostle to the Gentiles. An apostle had the greatest authority or rights of anyone in the church; therefore, he had greater freedom than anyone. An apostle roamed the Roman world, establishing and directing churches. An apostle had exceptional privileges. He was appointed by the Holy Spirit (12:11), an eyewitness of the resurrection (15:8-10), endowed with miraculous powers (Acts 5:15; 16:16-18; 19:11-12), and recipient of direct revelation to write Scripture.
Am I not free?
Paul was personally free in Christ and understood his liberty. He was emancipated in Christ from the penalty of sin (Galatians 5:1). The book of Acts portrays the fascinating account of how he murdered Christians and imprisoned them, but then how he became free from sin.
Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?
Paul became a believer after the death and resurrection of Christ. He saw the resurrected Christ in a vision as an eyewitness (9:3-5, 15; 18:9-10;22:14-18; 26:15-18).
Are you not my work in the Lord?
The Corinthians came to Christ through the ministry of Paul’s apostolic ministry (Romans 15:15-21). “My work” does not refer to a building because there were no church buildings until the third century. The people in Corinth who came to Christ were his “work.” Paul says, “What do I have to show for my one-and-a-half years of work in Corinth? I can point to your salvation. You were pagans worshipping in the Temple of Aphrodite. Now, look at your transformed lives.” He founded the church at Corinth.
If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you.
Paul started the church at Corinth and led many to Christ, so his authority should have been patently obvious to them (Acts 18:1-11). The Corinthians owed their existence as a church to the ministry of the apostle Paul. A proof of Paul’s apostleship is that people come to Christ.
For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
A “seal” in the first century was used to guarantee authenticity by fastening something closed. Seals were placed on letters or containers to guarantee that the merchandise was genuine and not altered. The church was the seal of the genuineness of Paul’s apostleship.
It is one thing to have freedom, but it is another thing to use it properly.
We hear many demands for “rights” in Christian circles today: “I have my rights.” We should know something about laying aside legitimate rights. We have our rights, but we also have the right to waive our rights or relinquish our rights. We relinquish rights for the welfare of others.