January 16, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #7: Questions Concerning Christian Freedom, 1 Corinthians 8.1-11.1



Lesson 7.3: Privileges of an Apostle
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9.1-6

1 Cor 9.1-6 (KJV)

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?
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.
3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,
4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?
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?
6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?


Paul may have had the most successful ministry there ever was, but his ministry certainly met a lot of resistance, not only from those outside the church, but he had to contend with discouragement from those within. He faced severe criticism; false brethren questioned his Apostleship, and they were constantly assaulting his character and attacking his reputation; particularly here at Corinth. He deserved better treatment from them, because he began the church, built it up to its current status, and accomplished a lot of good for the church while personally leading many of them to faith in Christ. Note, It is not surprising and nothing new when a minister has to contend with church officers and members who block his efforts to make changes, criticize his sermons, and treat him unkindly, though he has been diligent and devoted in his ministry among them. Some of the Corinthians went so far as to question his apostolic character. He answers some of their criticisms in this chapter, and he does it in a manner which shows him to be a remarkable example of that self-denial, for the good of others, which he had been recommending in the former chapter.

There are four parts to this Chapter:
I. Privileges of an Apostle—verses 1-6
II. Support of an Apostle—verses 7-14
III. Renunciation by an Apostle—verses 15-23
IV. Discipline of Christian Freedom—verses 24-27


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?

Am I not an Apostle?
I believe there is sufficient evidence to say that there were persons at Corinth who questioned the Apostleship of St. Paul; and in order to avoid criticism he was obliged to walk very cautiously so that they might not find anything to use against him. It also looks as if he ministered to them free of charge; and even this, which was the highest proof of his impartial goodwill, was used by his opposition as an argument against him. They may have said something like this; "Prophets, and all divinely commissioned men, have a right to be supported by the church, but you take nothing for your labors; could the reason be that you are under conviction, that you have no apostolic right to our support" The Apostle begins to defend himself with this verse.

“Am I not an Apostle?” Of course the answer is, “Yes, Paul, you are an Apostle.” Such an obvious truth should hardly need stating. The way this question is presented in the Greek demands a positive answer. But this was the point that needed to be settled; and it is likely that some at Corinth had denied that he could be an Apostle, since it was required that in order to be acknowledged as an Apostle one had to have seen the Lord Jesus; and since it was thought that Paul had not been a eyewitness of his life, miracles, teaching, doctrines, or death; he could hardly call himself an Apostle of His.

What evidence could Paul give to show he was indeed an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ? He begins with this verse to present his qualifications. The evidence of Paul's true status as an Apostle is shown in the following statements:
1. “Am I not free?” Paul was not under the authority of anyone but Jesus Christ; other Christians were under apostolic authority.
2. “Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?” Paul insists that he did not merely see a vision of Jesus, but an authentic appearance of the post-resurrection Jesus.
3. “Are you not my work in the Lord?” The proof is in the pudding. The work of God among the Corinthian Christians was evidence enough of Paul's apostolic credentials. In fact, the very existence of the Corinthian church was the seal of Paul's Apostleship in the Lord. If he was not an Apostle to others; he surely was to them. Whenever he speaks, he can do so with authority because of his relationship to the Corinthian assembly.

Some today claim to be Apostles on the level of Paul, because of visions or experiences they claim to have had. But seeing the resurrected Jesus is not the only qualification of a true Apostle; Paul was specifically commissioned as an Apostle when Jesus appeared to him on the Damascus Road (see Acts 26:12-18).They have given themselves the title, but they do not have the Apostles heart or his relationship with Jesus Christ or his level of filling with the Holy Spirit. I would not want to be in their shoes when they must appear before Him.

am I not free?
The answer to Paul’s second question is once again an emphatic, “Yes, Paul, you are free.” He could rightly claim to have the same commission, and mandate, and powers that the other Apostles had. What respect, or honor, or subsistence, can they demand, which I am not at liberty to demand as well as them? Paul had chosen to be independent of the Corinthian Church, and he had good reasons for it. But it was not what they claimed; that he was under conviction for never seeing Jesus. He could earn a living by plying his trade as a tentmaker; he had done it before. Being self sufficient and self supporting he would be free from those who sought to interfere with and influence his ministry. The Apostle’s enemies at Corinth claimed, or at least insinuated that he was not a true Apostle, pointing to the fact that he did not have anything to do with Jesus while he lived. In his defense, the first thing he mentions is his freedom, that is, from men; no man had any authority over him; he was not taught, or commissioned, or ordained as a minister by men, but by Jesus Christ, as the other Apostles were. The Apostles were given first place in the church, and had power to instruct, send forth, and ordain others; but no one had power over them; and this was one proof that he was an Apostle; because he was free. “Am I not as free as any other believer to regulate my conduct according to my own convictions of what is right—free from any obligation to conform to the opinions or prejudices of other people?”

The Syriac, Ethiopic, Vulgate Latin, the Alexandrian versions, and some other copies put this clause first; and many interpreters have the same opinion that it is the best order of the words. The clause would then read; “Am I not free? am I not an Apostle?” With this sentence structure the Apostle proceeds by a progression from the less to the greater, showing his respect for his freedom to use things that are indifferent, such as meats offered in sacrifice to idols, although he did not use his liberty, because he wanted to avoid wounding the consciences of “weaker brethren.” It did not follow therefore that he was not free, as some might suggest from what he had said in the latter part of the foregoing chapter.  Or he may have wanted to demonstrate his respect for his freedom from the ceremonial law in general; he was willing, for the sake of gaining souls for Christ, to become all things to all men; to the Jews he became a Jew, that he might gain them; yet he acted in a manner that would preserve his liberty in Christ, without entangling himself with the yoke of bondage. But if you would ask my opinion, I would tell you that the words are in the right order, because I believe the King James Version is the most accurate translation available, so I say “Leave it alone.”

have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?
Here it is implied by Paul, that in order to be an Apostle it was necessary to have seen the Savior. This is made a prerequisite in other places as well. The reason this was a requirement, is that the Apostles were appointed to be WITNESSES of the life, doctrines, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and their being witnesses was something that was a PECULIARITY of the apostolic office. That this was the case is abundantly obvious from the following verses:
• Matthew 28:18,19—“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth…Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”
• Luke 24:48—“And ye are witnesses of these things.”
• Acts 1:21,22—“Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us…Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”
• Acts 2:32—“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses.”
• Acts 10:39-41—“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree…Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly…Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.”

And so, in order to be an Apostle, it was essential that one had been a witness, and, 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 Savior, and who had not therefore had the 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—“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven…And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?...And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks…And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 9:3-5, 17; KJV).

Paul frequently mentions the fact of his having been qualified for the apostolic office in a miraculous manner, and always with the same belief, that it was necessary to have seen the Lord Jesus to qualify one for this office:
• “And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth…For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15; KJV).
•  “But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee” (Acts 26:16; KJV).
• “And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Cor 15:8; KJV).

It follows from this, therefore, that no one was an Apostle in the strict and proper sense that had not seen the Lord Jesus. And it follows, also, that the Apostles could have no successors in the distinctive office in which they served the Lord Jesus; and that the office of Apostle must have commenced and ended with them.

Paul had a spiritual sight of The Lord by faith, but that did not qualify him to be an Apostle; this is what he had in common with other believers. Whether he saw him in the flesh, before his crucifixion and death, is not certain; though it is very probable he might have; yet this was no more than what Herod and Pontius Pilate did. But he saw him after his resurrection from the dead, to which he refers in 1 Corinthians 15:8 (see above) as a proof of his Apostleship; this is what the Apostles were chosen to be eyewitnesses of—“Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 10:41; KJV)—and to publish it to the world.

Scriptures reveal that our Apostle saw Christ several times; first at the time of his conversion, next when in a trance at Jerusalem (Ac 22:17), and again in the castle where the chief captain put him for security, and very probably also when he was caught up into the third heaven.

are not ye my work in the Lord?
Paul had been used by the Lord to start the church at Corinth, and the Corinthian believers should have been the last people on earth to doubt he was a true Apostle. They should have needed no other proof of his Apostleship, and the genuineness of his mission. What Paul is saying here is simply this: “If anyone wants to know whether or not I am a genuine Apostle, I will show him you Christians in Corinth who were converted through my ministry. I will point out to him the divine proofs of my Apostleship. First you received my preaching, then you exercised faith in Christ, and were saved through the gospel I preached to you; God then poured out many and varied gifts of the Holy Ghost upon you.

What had happened in the individual lives of the believers at Corinth should have been proof enough to them that Paul was God’s appointed Apostle, for certainly no MAN could have effected such a change in their lives as that change that occurred when they received Paul’s message. It must have hurt the Apostle deeply when some of his own converts took sides with those who accused him of being a counterfeit Apostle.

The final proof that a man himself knows Christ is that he can bring others to him. It is said that once a young soldier, lying in pain in a hospital, said to Florence Nightingale as she bent over to tend to him, “You are Christ to me.” The reality of a man’s Christianity, is that he helps others to be Christian.

Any persons who would try to prove that Paul was not an Apostle must refute three facts: “I have seen the risen Lord; I have received a commission; I have been successful in my labors.” Others may deny his right to be called “Apostle” but certainly the Corinthians cannot. They knew better!

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.

If I be not an Apostle unto others,
These words of the Apostle were spoken as a matter of conjecture, not as an acknowledgment; because he was an Apostle to many others; he was an Apostle to the Gentiles in general; the same as Peter was an Apostle to the Jews. The purpose behind the statement was to establish his authority among the Corinthian believers, so that he could put an end to the disputes surrounding his claim to Apostleship. I believe what the Apostle is saying is this: “If there are those, who have doubts as to my Apostleship, then they have a problem, because I planted your Church by my ministry, therefore they do not have any ground for doubt; either they must recognize me as an Apostle or they are not true believers.” Paul does not rely on mere words, since there seems to be an inference in this statement that the reality of his Apostleship can be seen in the faith of the Corinthians, because God had sealed his Apostleship by their faith. It is true that there are false prophets who gather followers around them by teaching counterfeit doctrines; but Paul is not one of them, since the doctrine he teaches is pure and comes from above. Pure doctrine, and its effect, above everything else, is required in a ministry, in order that anyone may have his ministry confirmed in the sight of God. There were preachers back then, as well as there are today, who succeed at spreading the kingdom of Christ, who, do not preach the gospel sincerely, but Paul has good reason to infer from the fruit of his labor, that he is divinely commissioned: because the blessing of God could be easily seen shinning forth in the Corinthian Church, which ought to have served as a confirmation of Paul’s office.

yet doubtless I am to you:
“If I have not given convincing evidence of my standing as an Apostle of Jesus Christ to others, I certainly have to you. I have ministered successfully to you for a long time, so you should not doubt that I was sent to you by the Lord. You have observed me labor in the ministry, you know me and you have benefited from the gifts the Lord has granted to me, all of which I have used to establish you in the Lord. You have seen my success, and you have had abundant evidence that I have been sent on this great work by the Lord Himself.” All the signs of Apostleship were done among them through his labors; not only was the grace of God implanted in them under his ministry, but the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were also received by them; and many signs, wonders, and mighty deeds, were done by him in their presence: “Truly the signs of an Apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Cor 12:12; KJV). These were miracles of the same degree as the acknowledged Apostles worked; there were "signs" or evidences that they were divinely commissioned—“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover” (Mark 16:16-18; KJV). Even for those who must see a thing before they believe it, the miracles should have been sufficient to put the matter to bed. Therefore it is strange that you doubt my apostolic commission; and it is hurtful when you interpret my declining to accept your offerings for my support, as a sign that I think I am not entitled to it. You, above all others, cannot deny my Apostleship, since you are the seal of my Apostleship. As far as the Corinthian church was concerned, he didn’t have to defend his Apostleship. It was evident to the Christians there that he was an Apostle.

for the seal of mine Apostleship are ye in the Lord.
When the Jewish priests and elders approached Jesus with the question, “By what authority doest thou these things?” (Matt 21:23; KJV), they hoped to use his answer to discredit him with the people. But He answered their question with a question of his own: “The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or from men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why then did ye not believe him?...But if we shall say, From men; we fear the multitude; for all hold John as a prophet…And they answered Jesus, and said, We know not. He also said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things” (Matt 21:25-27; ASV). The people believed in John’s ministry and that he was sent by God, because of his success. Paul had, in 1 Corinthians 9:1, told them they were his work in the Lord, and here he says that he was an Apostle, that is, one sent by Christ to them for the salvation of their souls; whatever he was to others, he was certainly an Apostle to them, and they were the “seal” of his apostolic office.

A “seal” is an embossed emblem, figure, or symbol, used as evidence of authenticity and when it is affixed to a deed, or any such document, it makes that document firm, secure, and indisputable. The sense here is, therefore, that the conversion of the Corinthians was an indisputable demonstration that he was an Apostle, and should be regarded as such by them, and appropriately treated by them. They were his proof that he was an Apostle:
1. Because Paul claimed to be an Apostle while he worked among them, and God blessed his claim.
2. Their conversion could not have been accomplished by a mere man. It was the work of God. It was the evidence then which God gave to Paul and to them, that he was with him, and had sent him.
3. They knew him, scrutinized him, heard him, were acquainted with his doctrines and manner of life, and could testify to what he was, and what he taught.

We may say with confidence that the conversion of sinners is the best evidence any minister can have that he is sent by God. The divine blessing on his labors should fill his heart with joy, and lead him to believe that God has sent him and approves of him. And every minister should live and labor in such a manner, that he may be able to appeal to the people among whom he labors that he is a minister of the Lord Jesus.

It is true that we cannot conclude, that a minister is no true minister if men are not saved under his ministry, since the spiritual seed may lie dormant for a time under the clods of doubts and fear, but where there is the saving of souls it is a most certain sign that the minister is a true minister, that is, one sent by God; because he could not be an instrument of God if God was not with him, and if God had not sent him.

3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

Without a doubt this verse points back to what has been said in verses 1 and 2. The word rendered “examine” means “critical investigation,” pointing of course to Paul’s enemies who claimed he was not a divinely appointed Apostle. Here it is used in the sense of a judicial investigation. The fact that the word is in the present tense points out that some of the church at Corinth were making a practice of suggesting that Paul was not a true Apostle; but he simply points to his converts as divine proof that he was God’s Apostle, and that the believers in Corinth were converted because God had used him to bring the message of salvation which they had received, through which they were saved, and wherein they were standing: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Cor 15:1-4; KJV).
4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?

Paul is making a statement, not asking a question. Certainly, as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul had a right to eat and to drink. As an Apostle he had that liberty. However, that liberty was curbed and curtailed by others. He had made the bold declaration. “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend” (1 Cor. 8:13). He had the right to eat meat, but he was not going to eat meat. Now that is an exercise of free will, isn’t it? It is free will to be able to do something and then choose not to do it. In a sense, that is a higher liberty, perhaps the highest liberty that there is. If you cannot do something, you do not do it; there is no exercise of free will in that. But if you are able to do something and then choose not to do it that is a revelation of your free will.

Here the word “power” is used in the sense of “right;” the right to choose what to eat and drink; but there was another issue being debated in Corinth, that is, whether Paul had the right to receive a wage (sometime referred to as “maintenance”) for his ministry among them. The objection they raised seems to have been this, “You, Paul and Barnabas, labor with your own hands—‘After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers” (Acts 18:1-3; KJV)’—but other religious teachers lay claim to maintenance, and are supported without personal labor. This is the case with pagan and Jewish priests, and with Christian teachers among us. You must be conscious, therefore, that you are not Apostles, and that you have no claim or right to support.” To this the answer of Paul is, “We admit that we labor with our own hands. But your assumption is wrong. It is not because we do not have a right to such support, and it is not because we are conscious that we have no such claim, but it is for wise and important reasons that we support ourselves by tent making, as they had done in most places where they stayed.” Paul proves at length in the subsequent part of the chapter that they had such a right.

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?

Have we not power to lead about a sister,
“Have we not power” would be better stated; “Have we not a right?” The objection which Paul answers here appears to have been, that Paul and Barnabas were unmarried, or at least that they traveled without wives. The objectors insisted that the other Apostles had wives, and that they took them with them, and expected provisions to be made for them as well as for themselves. The Corinthian believers felt that this showed that they had a claim to support for their families, and that they were conscious that they were sent by God. But Paul and Barnabas did not have families, as far as we know. And the objectors inferred from that that they were conscious that they had no claim to the Apostleship, and no right to support. To this Paul replies as he had before, that they had a right to do the same as the other Apostles did, but they chose not to do it for reasons other than that they were conscious that they had no such right.

The Greek word rendered “power” is “εξουσιαν” which has the same meaning here, as it does in 1 Corinthians 9:4, implying authority or right; and that this authority is not merely derived from their office, but from God who gave them that office.

The phrase “to lead about,” as it is used here, has the sense of; being in their company; to lead from place to place; and to have them taken care of at the expense of the churches they are ministering to.

The phrase "a sister, a wife", is a Hebraism, and denotes "my sister, spouse:” “Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck” (Song 4:9; KJV). The Jews called their wives, sisters, not on account of their religion; but because of the common relation that men and women have to one another, which was also a predecessor to any closer relationship, such as that of man and wife. This phrase has puzzled commentators, but the simple meaning seems to be, “a wife who should be a Christian.” Probably Paul meant to call attention to the fact that the wives of the Apostles were and should be Christians; and that it follows, that if an Apostle led about a wife she would be a Christian. It is very doubtful, as he traveled from place to place, that the Apostle would have brought with him, a woman to whom he was not married.

a wife,
Paul says that he has the right to take a wife with him—he has that liberty—but he has made his decision to remain single. After all, he was a pioneer missionary, and his life was a very rugged one. That is what the Apostle means when he speaks of leading about a sister, a wife; he means that he and all the other Apostles, and consequently all ministers of the Gospel, had a right to marry. It is almost certain that our Lord‘s brothers James and Jude were married; Philip the Evangelist had four daughters—“And the next day we that were of Paul's company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him…And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy” (Acts 21:8-9; KJV)—and we have infallible evidence that Peter was a married man, not only from this verse, but from Matthew 8:14, where his mother-in-law is mentioned as being cured by our Lord of a fever—“And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever” (Matt 8:14; KJV).

The Apostles wives shared the same faith; since that is implied in the word sister. This is a crucial proof against the celibacy of the Catholic clergy: and as to their attempts to evade the force of this text by saying that the Apostles had holy women who took care of them, and ministered to them during their travels, there is no proof of it in scripture or within any historical writings. Furthermore, they would never have allowed either young women or other men‘s wives to accompany them in their travels, since that would have given rise to rumors and the worst kind of scandal. And one Clemens Alexandrinus remarked that the Apostles brought their wives with them, “not as wives, but as sisters, that they might minister to those who were mistresses of families; that so the doctrine of the Lord might without reprehension or evil suspicion enter into the apartments of the women.”

Paul had as good a right to be married, and have his family supported, as Peter and the other Apostles had. Ministers of the gospel, whether serving in Christian Churches in this nation or as missionaries to heathen lands, have a right to be married, and for them and their families to be supported; though it may sometimes be wise not to exercise this right.

as well as other Apostles,
It is evident from this clause that the Apostles in general were married, and their wives accompanied them on their missionary journeys. Now, we cannot say that all the Apostles were married, but it is clear from this and other scriptures that most were. The Greek phrase used here is οἱ λοιποὶ ἀπόστολοι hoi loipoi apostoloi, which is rendered “as well as the remaining Apostles,” or “as well as the other Apostles.”  And if they were married, it is right and proper for ministers to marry now, whatever the Catholic Church may say to the contrary. It is safer to follow the example of the Apostles than the opinions of the Catholic Church. There may have been a number of reasons why the Apostles took their wives with them on their journeys. They may have given instruction and counsel to those of their own sex to whom the Apostles could not have access, or perhaps they went along to minister to the needs of their husbands as they traveled. We need to bear in mind that they traveled among pagans; they had no coworkers and no friends; therefore, they took their wives with them for companionship and to care for them during sickness and ordeals. Paul says that he and Barnabas had a right to do this; but they had not used this right because they preferred to minister the gospel without charge, because they thought they could do more good, if they were beholden to no one: “What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel” (1 Cor 9:18; KJV). From this, we may draw several conclusions:
1. That it is right for ministers to marry, and that the Catholic doctrine of the celibacy of the clergy is contrary to the apostolic example.
2. That it is right for missionaries to marry, and to take their wives with them to pagan lands. The Apostles were missionaries, and spent their lives in pagan nations as missionaries do now, and there may be as many good reasons for missionaries marrying now as there were then.
3. That there are people, like Paul, who can do more good without being married. There are circumstances, like his, where it is not advisable that they should marry, and there can be no doubt that Paul regarded the unmarried state for a missionary as preferable and advisable. Probably the same is to be said of most missionaries at the present day, that they could do more good if unmarried, than they can if burdened with the cares of family life.

and as the brethren of the Lord,
The half brothers of the Lord Jesus were James and Joses, and Simon and Judas according to Matthew 13:55: “Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas?” It seems from this, that although, at first, they did not believe in him—“For neither did his brethren believe in him” (John 7:5; KJV)—and had regarded him as disgraceful—“When his family heard about it, they went to get him. They said, “He's out of his mind!” (Mark 3:21; GW)—however, they were subsequently converted, and were engaged as ministers and evangelists. Note, it is customary in scripture to give the name of brethren to those who were connected with Him by relationship.

The reasonable interpretation of this passage is that “the brethren of the Lord,” were the sons and daughters of Joseph and Mary. The people in the neighborhood thought so, and spoke of them as such, without hesitation. This is also the view of St. Clement of Alexandria in ancient times, and modern writers who were very different from each other; men such as De Wette, Neander, Osiander, Meyer, Ewald, and Alford. The theory of Jerome, that they were cousins of Jesus, and the sons of Alphseus and Mary, a sister of the Virgin Mary, is in every way absolutely unsustainable, and it was partially dropped even by St. Jerome himself, when it had served his controversial purpose. The theory of Epiphanius, that they were sons of Joseph by a previous marriage, is possible, but incapable of proof. It comes from a polluted source—the apocryphal Gospels. There is nothing in the New Testament that requires these to be understood in any other way than as the half-brothers of Jesus, the natural children of Joseph and the Virgin Mary, her virginity following the birth of Jesus being nothing but a superstition. Note, It should be pointed out that the Lord Jesus had sisters as well as the brothers: “Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary? Aren't his brothers' names James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?...And aren't all his sisters here with us?...” (Matt 13:55-56; GW).

and Cephas?
“Cephas” was the name given to Peter by Jesus: “And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone” (John 1:42; KJV). Cephas is a Hebrew word, and Peter is the Greek form. There are several conclusions relating to Peter, which can be drawn from this verse:
1. That Peter had been married; which is also clearly stated in Matthew 8.14: “And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever.”
2. That he had a wife after he became an Apostle, and while engaged in the work of the ministry.
3. That his wife accompanied him in his travels.
4. That it is right and proper for ministers and missionaries to be married now.
5. That those who promote celibacy among the clergy by citing the example of the Apostles are promoting a fallacy.

It seems strange to me that the bogus successor of Peter, the Pope of Rome, would forbid marriage when Peter himself was married? It is proof of how little the Catholic Church regards the Bible, and the example and authority of those from whom it pretends to derive its power? But it explains why the Popes forbad common people to read the Bible, conducted the mass in Latin, and have their own version of the Bible. And again, it is strange that this doctrine of the celibacy of the clergy, which has been the source of scandal, and depravity everywhere, should have been continued and tolerated at all by the Christian world? And it is it strange that this, with all the other corrupt doctrines of the papacy, should be or attempted to be imposed on the enlightened people of the United States, as a part of the religion of Christ? Catholics, in general must not read the Bible, or else they would question many of their doctrines, and would leave their religion for one that respects the Word of God.

6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working?

Or I only and Barnabas,
To paraphrase the verse: “Are Barnabas and I the only exceptions to the rule that ministers should be supported by their respective churches?” At the beginning of his ministry in Corinth, the Apostle supported himself: Paul and Barnabas had worked together as tent-makers at Corinth; “And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers” (Acts 18:3; KJV). This is the first mention of the craft by which Paul earned his daily bread, so often during his toilsome life. Every Jewish boy was taught a trade, and Paul no doubt learned his in Tarsus. When financial aid did come, it did not come from the Corinthian assembly. This issue was no doubt an embarrassment to the Corinthians, and appears to have been an annoyance to the Apostle.

It seems from this statement by the Apostle:
1. That the Apostles did not generally support themselves by their own labor. Most of them were fishermen; rough, uneducated and completely lacking in social skills. They may have fished when their travels brought them near the Sea of Galilee, but at all other times they were like fish out of water, as far as being able to support themselves. For that reason they required support from churches in order to survive.
2. That Paul and Barnabas were able to support themselves by making tents that could be sold in the marketplace.
3. Some of the others probably did not have a business at which they could conveniently work; but Paul and Barnabas had a trade at which they could conveniently labor wherever their travels took them.

Most of the other Apostles received support from the churches they ministered to. Paul and Barnabas were unique in this regard, since they chose to work and support themselves, so no one could say that the motive behind their preaching was money. We might think this would make Paul and Barnabas more respected in the sight of the Corinthian Christians. But instead, it made them less respected, which seems very strange to me. It was almost as if the Corinthian Christians would say, “If Paul and Barnabas were real Apostles, we would support them, but since they are not supported, we suppose they aren’t real Apostles.” It is a strange way of thinking, if you ask me. While commendable in the highest degree, this renunciation of the right of support on the part of Paul and Barnabas resulted in their being looked down upon by some who were steeped in the culture of the Greeks. The philosophers regarded the men who performed menial tasks as inferior. Working with one's hands for his support was detested by them.

Like St. Paul, Barnabas was in every respect a genuine Apostle, by the Divine call—“As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2; KJV); “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision” (Gal 2:9; KJV)—though neither of them were one of the twelve. Barnabas seems to have continued to work alone and independently in his separate mission work; the practice of independence which he had learned from St. Paul. This mention of Barnabas is interesting, because it is the last time that the name of Barnabas occurs, and it shows that, even after the quarrel and separation, Paul regarded him with love and esteem.

Paul's argument is simply that he was as fully entitled to be supported by the churches as were any of the other Apostles, a right proved by the general acceptance of it throughout the brotherhood of that day; but he chose not to use that right.  

have not we power to forbear working?
“Don’t we have the same right to abstain from labor, and to receive support as others do? The question implies a strong affirmation that they indeed had such power. The sense is, “Why should I and Barnabas be regarded as having no right to support? Have we been less faithful than others? Have we done less? Have we given fewer evidences that we are sent by the Lord, or that God approves of us and our work? Have we been less successful? Why then should we be singled out; and why should it be supposed that we are obliged to labor for our support? “Is there no other conceivable reason” why we should support ourselves than awareness that we have no right to receive support from the people for whom we labor?” It is evident from 1 Corinthians 9:12 that Barnabas as well as Paul relinquished his right to support, and labored to maintain himself: “If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Cor 9:12; KJV).

 And it is obvious from the whole passage, that there was some special “malice” against these two ministers of the gospel. We do not know what it was, but it is very visible in the criticism and disrespect they met. It might have arisen from the hate and opposition of Judaizing teachers, who were offended by their zeal and success among the Gentiles, and their attitude was aggravated when they could find no other cause for complaints against them than that they chose to support themselves, and not live in idleness, or to tax the church for their support. That must have been a poor cause if it could be sustained by such an argument.

Paul worked at his trade, and so it seems Barnabas did likewise: Paul worked with his hands at Corinth, along with his dear friends Aquila and Priscilla, since they were also tentmakers—“And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers” (Acts 18:3; KJV)—as he was. It was how he earned a living in other places; he appealed to the elders of the church at Ephesus to confirm this: “Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me” (Acts 20:34; KJV)—and also to the church of the Thessalonians: “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God” (1 Thess 2:9; KJV). Paul had the right and power to quit his business of tent making and require support from the churches he ministered to; but for some reasons he chose not to make use of his power and liberty. It is likely that he did not want to be in debt to those he preached to.  When he preached to them for the first time he did not want them to think he had worldly selfish ambitions in view, and not the good of souls, and glory of Christ; however, here he lets them know, that though Barnabas and he continued to get their bread by their own hard labor, they had a right to quit their trades, and throw themselves upon the church for their support. The Apostle seems, by this stance, to imitate the ancient, wise, and holy men of his nation, who taught the law freely, and took nothing for it; not that they thought it was unlawful, or that they had no right to receive support on account of it, but for the honor of religion, and the piety they professed.


Do you have any questions or comments?

 An elderly saint had lost the bulk of his hearing and his eyes had grown dim with age. Even though he could not experience the worship as he once had, he never stopped attending church. One intrigued individual finally asked the obvious, “Why do you continue attending church when you cannot hear or see what’s going on?” The old man replied, “I want to show everybody whose side I’m on!” Whether or not you like the music or care for the preaching, your presence in church affirms whose side you’re on.   Contributed by Philip Riegel