1 Corinthians 9:1-9

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?
Now the Apostle Paul begins a different subject as he begins to vindicate his apostleship. Have you ever been in a situation and made a suggestion and then the comment comes back, “who does he think he is?” Well, before anyone in the Corinthian church can discredit Paul, he is laying open his spiritual credentials to the church so they know that he has the right to author such a letter and to make the corrections in the church. Obviously, someone probably had tried to harm the reputation of Paul, so Paul now begins his defense. He doesn’t really have to do this because the letter that he wrote was filled with proper corrections but to stave off any further questioning of his right to be in that position, he responds. In this verse he asks four questions.
Am I not an apostle? - Paul was considered to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. (Rom 11:13 KJV) For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: The word “apostle” in the Greek in this verse is “apostolos” which simply means a messenger. Paul was a special messenger to the church at Corinth as he was commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to build the churches in various areas. The true signs of an Apostle are found in: (2 Cor 12:12 KJV) Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. There was no lack of the mighty miracles that Paul worked, through the power of the Lord Jesus, in various places. Based on his ministry and spiritual reputation, he asks these Corinthians if he was not an Apostle. If he was not, then how could he possess so much divine power in his ministry? He asks them to dwell upon this question. After the completion of the Bible, all of the true believers became Apostles, in the sense that all are messengers, and are being sent into the world to bring the Gospel by the preaching of the Scriptures.
am I not free? - Paul speaks that the same liberty which he teaches that all true Christians have is the same liberty that he has. He is not talking about free to sin, he is speaking about being free to serve Christ. In other words, some like to throw our past life at us and try to place us back under bondage. In Christ, all our sins have been forgiven and forgotten by God. Since they are all gone, this means that each Christian is free to serve Christ without any guilt for their past sins. Paul is saying that he has the same liberty that the Corinthian Christians have but many of the Corinthians were using it as license to sin but Paul is showing them that the freedom in Christ is not to be used to sin, rather to serve Him. (Gal 5:13 KJV) For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. Once a Christian becomes entangled in sin again, it is no more liberty, but bondage. This is what Paul is counseling these Christians to discern between true liberty and the bondage of false liberty.
have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? - Here Paul states that he has physically seen the Lord Jesus Christ. On the road to Damascus, he saw the Lord when he received his commission. He may even be referring to the fact that he may have seen the Lord Jesus when He was here on Earth. Whatever the scenario was, Paul saw the Lord. He includes this because the other Apostles were still alive except James who was martyred very early. The other Apostles walked with Jesus and this may have been an accusation brought against Paul that he was not among the original twelve, so his authority was assumed and not appointed by the Lord.
are not ye my work in the Lord? - Paul now states that he was directly responsible for bringing the true Gospel to Corinth and establishing the church there. He addresses these Christians as being “his work.” Paul was a people person but he always knew what his work was, and that was to establish churches and bring the true Gospel. He personalizes the fact that the Corinthians were his mission field. He sees the living proof of his ministry in this church and he has no intention of letting false teaching take over this church. He started the church and now he is going to help nurture it so it can continue to grow.
1 Corinthians 9:2
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.
Paul is now telling them that even if he was not an Apostle to others, he was still an Apostle to this church. He was saying that even if his ministry did not extend beyond Corinth, the fact is, that his ministry is here, alive and well. Paul is, in essence, telling them, don’t worry about what happens somewhere else, concern yourself with the matters at hand. He then states that this congregation is his “seal” of his Apostleship. In ancient times, a seal by an official was a very legal and binding thing. If a person received the King’s seal or the Governor’s seal on a document, then that document was law and to be obeyed. Paul is declaring that his apostleship has the same authority as the government except his seal is sealed by the Lord Jesus Christ who is far above earthly government. (Eph 1:21 KJV) Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
1 Corinthians 9:3
Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
Examine - Inquire or Investigate
Paul answers the query of some who were questioning his apostleship. As we see the word, “examine” carries with it the meaning of “inquiry.” Maybe with all the problems the Corinthian church had, there might have been those who chose to look into Paul’s claim, just to make sure he was not another false teacher usurping authority. However, the general picture in these verses seems like he was put under scrutiny by those who were the progenitors of the false teachings and erroneous practices which infiltrated the church. False teachers will always lead the hunt to destroy a true teacher, yet, they themselves, forbid to be investigated, for obvious reasons. Paul was not necessarily defending his character but his legitimate spiritual authority as an Apostle.
1 Corinthians 9:4
Have we not power to eat and to drink?
Power - Authority
Here Paul is stating that since he is an Apostle, he retains the right, by authority, to charge his living expenses to the church. (3 John 1:8 KJV) We therefore ought to receive such, that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth. Paul made it a practice to never overburden any church and he worked for his sustenance, or he was given his supplies by Christians, but he never exacted any type of financial burden on the congregation. He never charged for his services. This is the principle that he is trying to get across to these people. If he chose too, he could take his living from the church and he would not be wrong in do so. However, he states that even though he has the authority to do so, he will not. This is part of the true testimony of Paul. A false teacher would love to be showered with gifts and money. The true Christian knows that the church money can be used for other things. It is a question of outlook, the difference between the false and the true.
1 Corinthians 9:5
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?
Power - Authority
Paul continues his question stream as he now turns to the authority he has to have others accompany him on his missionary journeys. Many times missionaries travel to heathen lands and it is best that a missionary be married when they do because the local customs of the area may challenge their singleness. Paul is stating here that he has the right to bring along others just as the other Apostles who were traveling from place to place. He even mentions those who were related as half-brethren to the Lord Jesus and then he brings into the question Peter. From this statement it seems that Peter would bring his wife on his missionary endeavors also. Paul had mentioned these specific individuals because they would still be fresh in the minds of the Christians. 1 Corinthians was written in 54 AD, which means that only 21 years had passed since the Lord’s resurrection and ascension. Paul continues to maintain his apostleship by using the term “as well as other apostles.”
1 Corinthians 9:6
Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?
He ends the question from verse 5 by saying that only he and Barnabas are forbidden to do these things? A rhetorical question! Then Paul goes on to say that he also possesses the authority to stop working to support himself and live off the churches as he has already broached this subject previously.
1 Corinthians 9:7
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 now brings three different scenarios to these people. First, who goes out to war and pays for it themselves? The soldier is fed, clothed, and trained by the army of the country that he is fighting for. He doesn’t join the army and bring his checkbook to pay as he goes. Then Paul brings in the husbandman or the owner of a vineyard. Does he plant it and nurture it, then when it is time for the harvest he doesn’t touch one piece of fruit? Then he brings in the shepherd, the shepherd spends much time with the flock and is also allowed to prepare meals from the flock. So we see three separate vocations and each supply the needs to the one who does the work. In essence, Paul is saying that he too can receive from the churches that he planted so he may continue on his missionary work without having to take time to work a job for wages.
1 Corinthians 9:8
Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
Now Paul is asking the question, is he saying these things just as a man who wants money or is he saying that there is biblical precedence for supporting such work? Paul wanted them to know definitely that he was not coming to them as someone who just wanted their funds simply because he had founded the church.
1 Corinthians 9:9
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?
The scripture that Paul quotes comes from Deuteronomy 25:4: (Deu 25:4 KJV) Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn. God cared enough to include this in His law. When a mouth is muzzled, it prevents the Oxen from eating. If the Oxen do not eat, then from where do they get their energy to do a hard days work? Animals depend on food for their ability to do their assigned work. He then asks the question, “Doth God take care for oxen?” The answer is yes, God cares for His creation. (Prov 12:10 KJV) A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. A saved person also cares for the life of the animals in his possession. The answer to that question that Paul is trying to elicit from these believers is that God cares for His creation but not as much as He does for His Very Elect, since it was Christ who redeemed the Elect. The animals are going to perish on the last day when the world comes to an end but the believers will go to live with God in eternity. Paul brings up the scenario about the oxen to make a meager comparison, that if the oxen are allowed to eat their fodder or provender, then it would also be permissible for Paul to exact a living from each church since Paul’s mission was much more important than that of an ox.