Paul Lists His Rights as a Minister
Verse 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?
Evidently, there were some at Corinth asking whether Paul had the qualifications to call himself an apostle. This office and title was held for only those who had witnessed Jesus life, doctrine, death and resurrection. However, Jesus did show himself to Paul after his ascension in order that Paul have the qualification for the apostolic office.
According to Matthew 28:18, 19 20, Jesus told his apostles to go and make disciples, not go and make apostles. I’ve been in churches where they call pastors and leaders “apostle.” I believe that is a title held only by those who walked with Jesus, Paul included.
Verse 2 – If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
Verse 3 – My defense to those who examine me is this:
Verse 4 – Do we have no right to eat and drink?
Verse 5 – Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?
Although Paul and Barnabas wire both single, they still had the same rights of fellow ministers. They had the right to take along a wife, if they had one; they had the right to be paid for their services; they had the right to hospitality when they entered a city.
Verse 6 – Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?
There must have been a question of Paul and Barnabas having to work to support themselves because they had no wives or family.
Verse 7 – Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?
Verse 8 – Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also?
Verse 9 – For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about?
Verse 10 – Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.
Verse 11 – If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?
People pay teachers, physicians, lawyers, and other professionals, so should we not pay those ministers who preach the gospel?
verse 12 – If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endured all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ.
Paul says that he and Barnabas, who have founded your church (Corinth church), who instructed them, and who imparted blessings on them, do they not have the right to be compensated much more than the ministers they were supporting now? Then Paul says, “nevertheless,” we chose not to take anything as to not hinder the gospel being preached.
Verse 13 – Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?
Verse 14 – Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.
All those who are called and sent forth, those who labor to preach the gospel, should be supported and maintained in this work. If you’ve ever had any doubt of whether a preacher should be paid, there’s your answer. It’s a commandment from the Lord to do so!
Paul Limits His Rights for Ministry
Verse 15 – But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void.
Paul chose to support himself by his own hands.
Verse 16 – For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!
Verse 17 – For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship.
Verse 18 – What is my reward then? That when I preached the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.
Paul is saying that if a man chooses to give up that right of compensation, he has a right to do so. People generally set very little value on that which costs them nothing. All ministers are not like Paul. Paul’s example then should not be urged as an authority for people to withhold from the pastor what is due, nor, because Paul chose to forego his rights, should people now demand that a minister should devote their time, health, and life to their welfare for nothing!
Verse 19 – For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;
Verse 20 – and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law;
Verse 21 – to those who are without the law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law;
Verse 22 – to weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to men, that I might by all means save some.
That takes total devotion and sacrifice towards one’s own comfort to see people saved.
Verse 23 – Now this I do for the gospels sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.
Verse 24 – Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
Everyone that enters a race wants to be first to cross that finish line. They prepare, they sacrifice, and are totally devoted, with a hope of winning. Should we, as Christians not conduct our lives in being a witness for Christ, have these qualities also?
Verse 25 – And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
Verse 26 – Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight not as one who beats the air.
Verse 27 – But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
Any athlete has to know their limits and know what it’s going to take to win. They sacrifice their time, they learn the subject, and most of all are faithful to it. As ambassadors for Christ, should we not know Him so intimately that no one would ever doubt that we belong to Him?