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The Apostleship of Paul
Summary —Answer to Various Insinuations of Judaizers. The Corinthians Had Proof of His Apostleship. He Had the Right to Have a Wife As Well as Peter. It Was His Right to Be Sustained by the Church. He Sustained Himself to Have One Ground for Self-Congratulation. Adapted Himself to All Classes to Save Them. The Christian Race.
1, 2. Am I not an apostle? Two objects are held in view in this chapter; to answer those, the Judaizers, who disparaged his authority by contrasts between him and the other apostles, and to enforce upon the church, by his example, self denial for the benefit of others. Am I not free? He had spoken (8:9) of Christian liberty He was free also, and an apostle who had seen the Lord, and hence, could witness to his resurrection. 2. The seal of mine apostleship ye are. The existence of the church at Corinth, founded by his labors, proved that he was their apostle, at least.
3–6. Have we not power to eat and to drink? To live at the charges of the churches we have founded? 5. Have we not power to lead about a sister, etc.? Peter (Cephas) was a married man. Other apostles had wives. Had Paul no right to have a wife? The answer is that he had this liberty as well as others if he had chosen to use it. Brethren of the Lord. Luke 6:15; Gal. 1:19. 6. Or have Barnabas and I only, etc. He and Barnabas worked with their own hands to sustain themselves while preaching. Others were sustained. Had not they the same right? He next shows that they had the right by various illustrations.
7–10. Who goeth a warfare at his own charges? Soldiers were paid while on a campaign; but he and Barnabas were Christian soldiers. The husbandman ate of the vineyard; but they worked in the vineyard of the Lord. The feeder of a flock drank of its milk, but they were feeders of the flock of God. 8. Say I these things as a man? Human affairs teach our right to be sustained, but the law of Moses teaches the same lesson. 9. Thou shalt not muzzle the ox, etc. See Deut. 25:4. In the East still the grain is trodden out on the threshing floor by the cattle, nor do the people muzzle the cattle to this day. Doth God take care of the oxen? Was this enactment made solely for the benefit of the oxen? Or was not it rather to teach those who did a work had a right to live off of that work? The latter, doubtless.
11–14. If we have sown to you in spiritual things. Preached the gospel, converted them, built them up in Christ. This conserved their eternal interests. Carnal things. An earthly support. 12. If others be partakers of this power. Enjoy this privilege of earthly support. But his right was greater than that of these. Have not used this power. He had supported himself lest he should hinder the gospel. The heathen might say that he was influenced by mercenary motives. As to his course see Acts 18:3. 13. They which minister about holy things. He now shows that the temple teaches the same lesson. The priests and Levites are sustained by the temple offerings. Partakers with the altar. A part of the sacrifice was consumed on the altar and a part was awarded to the priests. 14. Even so hath the Lord ordained, etc. It was the Lord's ordinance, even if Paul did not exercise the power, that those who preach the gospel should be sustained by the church. See Matt. 10:9, 10.
15–18. But I have used none of these things. They had neither sustained him, nor did he now write to them to have them do so. Nay, he was fully resolved not to change his course. It were even better for him to die than to do so. 16. For though I preach * * * I have nothing to glory of. He preached because he was Christ's servant. He was therefore under necessity, as a servant. Nay, “woe was upon him” if he obeyed not. In this, then, he had no right to boast. But if he refused a support from the churches when he had liberty to receive it, that might make a ground of boasting. 17. If I do this thing willingly. If he preached voluntarily, he might then claim an earthly reward. But if against my will. If I do this as a servant of Christ upon whom the service is laid; then he has a stewardship. (See Revision.) In that case he has the obligations of a steward. It is his duty to feed the Master's servants. 18. What then is my reward? He had no earthly wages. What then? That he should have the satisfaction of knowing that, for the sake of the gospel, he gave up his right, and preached freely. If he was accused of mercenary motives it might interpose a hindrance.
19–23. For though I be free, etc. He shows why he used this self denial. In order that he might gain souls, he was willing to become the servant of all, and to deny himself all things. 20. Unto the Jews I became as a Jew. With Jews he lived as a Jew in order to reach them. He observed their distinctions of meats, kept feasts, and circumcised Timothy. He observed the law to reach those who kept law. 21. To them without law. To such, though in the sight of God keeping His law, he came not as an enforcer of the law of Moses. He spoke to Gentiles from a Gentile standpoint, as at Athens. (Acts 17.) 22. To the weak I became as weak. Adapted himself to their weakness as he had directed the “strong” at Corinth to do. I am made all things, etc. While steadfastly keeping Christ's law he adapted himself to all men in the hope of gaining them. 23. And I do all things. All this self denial had in view a single object—the promotion of the gospel. Would that all Christians, from the same motive, would adapt themselves to all classes, in order to reach them.
24–27. They which run in a race, run all, etc. He had spoken of self denial in order to secure gospel success. He now enforces the need of sparing no effort, self denial or exertion, to win the crown. The Corinthians were familiar with the races in the stadium. Only one, the foremost, received a prize. Hence the lesson, so run that you may obtain; outstrip all others if possible. The Isthmian games, among the most famous of Greece, were celebrated at Corinth. 25. Every man that striveth, etc. Everyone who proposed to strive in the games for the prize pursued a course of self control, and exercised himself very systematically. All this effort was made for a corruptible crown. The prize of the victor in the foot race was a crown woven of the pine leaves which grew then, and still grow, on the isthmus of Corinth. But we an incorruptible. We run for a crown that never fades (1 Peter 5:4). 26. I, therefore, so run, not as uncertainly. Not as one who had no definite goal before him. His eye was fixed upon the heavenly prize. Not as one that beateth the air. The first figure is of a runner with a definite object; the second is taken from the boxer who strikes the air instead of his competitor. So fights not Paul. He puts a skillful aim into his blows. 27. But I keep my body under. I buffet my body (Revision). He puts the body down by his blows, by self denial for Christ. It shall not be his master, but his servant. He keeps it under lest, after having preached to others, he should be rejected; that is, refused the prize of the crown. What an exhortation to us is this example of the apostle! Continually vigilant lest he should be finally rejected! Even he worked out his salvation “with fear and trembling.” Surely, he should “give all diligence to make our calling and election sure.” In this worldly, self-seeking, luxurious age “we should give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard.”
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