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THE FIRST EPISTLE OF PAUL THE APOSTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS - Chapter 9 - Verse 1
1st Corinthians CHAPTER 9
THE apostle had, in 1 Co 8:13, mentioned his willingness to deny himself, if he might be the means of benefiting others. On this principle he had acted; and on this he purposed to act, The mention of this principle of action seems to have led him to a further illustration of it in his own case, and in the illustration to meet an objection that had been urged against him at Corinth; and the scope of this chapter seems to have been not only to give an illustration of this principle, (1 Co 9:27,) but to show that this principle on which he acted would account for his conduct when with them, and would meet all the objections which had been made against his apostleship. These objections seem to have been,
(1) that he had not seen Jesus Christ; and, therefore, could not be an apostle, 1 Co 9:1.
(2.) That he did not live like the other apostles, that he was unmarried, was a solitary man, and a wanderer, and was unlike the other apostles in his mode of life, not indulging as apostles might do in the ordinary comforts of life, 1 Co 9:4,6.
(3.) That he and Barnabas were compelled to labour for their support, and were conscious, therefore, that they had no pretensions to the apostolic office, 1 Co 9:6. And,
(4.) that the fact that he was unsupplied; that he did not apply to Christians for his maintenance; that he did not urge this as a right, showed that he was conscious that he had no claims to the apostolic character and rank.
To all this he replies in this chapter; and the main drift and design of his reply is to show that he acted on the principle suggested in 1 Co 8:13, that of denying himself; and consequently, that though he had a right to maintenance, yet that the fact that he did not urge that right was no proof that he was not sent from God, but was rather a proof of his being actuated by the high and holy principles which ought to influence those who were called to this office. In urging this reply, he shows:
(1.) That he had seen Jesus Christ, and had this qualification for the office of an apostle, 1 Co 9:1.
(2.) That he had the power like others to partake of the common enjoyments of life, and that his not doing it was no proof that he was not an apostle, 1 Co 9:4.
(3.) That he was not prohibited from entering the domestic relations as others had done, but had the right to enjoy the same privileges if he chose; and that his not doing it was no proof that he was not an apostle, but was an instance of his denying himself for the good of others, 1 Co 9:5.
(4.) That he was not under a necessity of labouring with his own hands, but that he might have required support as others did; that his labouring was only another instance of his readiness to deny himself to promote the welfare of others, 1 Co 9:6.
This sentiment he illustrates through the remainder of the chapter, by showing that he had a right to support in the work of the apostle:- ship, and that his not insisting on it was an instance of his being willing to deny himself that he might do good to others; that he did not urge this right, because to do that might injure the cause, (1 Co 9:12,16;) and that whether he received support or not, he was bound to preach the gospel. In this he shows
(b.) that it was equitable that he should be supported, (1 Co 9:11;)
(c.) that the Lord had ordained this as a general law, that they which preached the gospel should live by it, (1 Co 9:14;)
(e.) that necessity was laid upon him at all events to preach the gospel, (1 Co 9:16;)
(g.) that he had made it the grand principle of his life, not to make money, but to save souls, and that he had sought this by a course of continued self-denial, (1 Co 9:19-22;)
(h.) that all this was done for the sake of the gospel, (1 Co 9:23;) and
(i.) that he had a grand and glorious object in view, which required him, after the manner of the Athletae, to keep his body under, to practise self-denial, to be temperate, to forego many comforts of which he might otherwise have partaken, and that the grandeur and glory of this object was enough to justify all his self-denial, and to make all his sacrifices pleasant, 1 Co 9:24-27.
Thus the whole chapter is an incidental discussion of the subject of his apostleship, in illustration of the sentiment advanced in 1 Co 8:13, that he was willing to practise self-denial for the good of others; and is one of the most elevated, heavenly, and beautiful discussions in the New Testament; and contains one of the most ennobling descriptions of the virtue of self-denial, and of the principles which should actuate the Christian ministry, anywhere to be found. All classic writings would be searched in vain, and all records of profane history, for an instance of such pure and elevated principle as is presented in this chapter.
Verse 1. Am I not an apostle? This was the point to be settled; and it is probable that some at Corinth had denied that he could be an apostle, since it was requisite, in order to that, to have seen the Lord Jesus; and since it was supposed that Paul had not been a witness of his life, doctrines, and death.
Am I not free? Am I not a free man; have I not the liberty which all Christians possess, and especially which all the apostles possess? The liberty referred to here is doubtless the privilege or right of abstaining from labour; of enjoying, as others did, the domestic relations of life: and of a support as a public minister and apostle. Probably some had objected to his claims of apostleship that he had not used this right, and that he was conscious that he had no claim to it. By this mode of interrogation, he strongly implies that he was a freeman, and that he had this right.
Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Here it is implied, and seems to be admitted by Paul, that in order to be an apostle it was necessary to have seen the Saviour. This is often declared expressly. See Barnes "Ac 1:21,22.
The reason of this was, that the apostles were appointed to be WITNESS of the life, doctrines, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and that in their being witnesses consisted the PECULIARITY of the apostolic office. That this was the case is abundantly manifest from Mt 28:18,19; Lu 24:48; Ac 1:21,22; 2:32; Ac 10:39-41. Hence it was essential, in order that any one should be such a witness, and an apostle, that he should have seen the Lord Jesus. In the case of Paul, therefore, who was called to this office after the death and resurrection of the Saviour, and who had not therefore had an opportunity of seeing and hearing him when living, this was provided for by the fact that the Lord Jesus showed himself to him after his death and ascension, in order that he might have this qualification for the apostolic office, Ac 9:3-5,17. To the fact of his having been thus in a miraculous manner qualified for the apostolic office, Paul frequently appeals, and always with the same view, that it was necessary to have seen the Lord Jesus to qualify one for this office, Ac 22:14,15; 26:16; 1 Co 15:8.
It follows from this, therefore, that no one was an apostle in the strict and proper sense who had not seen the Lord Jesus. And it follows, also, that the apostles could have no successors in that which constituted the PECULIARITY of their office; and that the office must have commenced and ended with them.
Are not ye my work in the Lord? Have you not been converted by my labours, or under my ministry; and are you not a proof that the Lord, when I have been claiming to be an apostle, has owned me as an apostle, and blessed me in this work? God would not give his sanction to an impostor, and a false pretender; and as Paul had laboured there as an apostle, this was an argument that he had been truly commissioned of God. A minister may appeal to the blessing of God on his labours in proof that he is sent of him. And one of the best of all arguments that a man is sent from God exists where multitudes of souls are converted from sin, and turned to holiness, by his labours. What better credentials than this can a man need, that he is in the employ of God? What more consoling to his own mind? What more satisfactory to the world?
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