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The Sunday Sermon – 1st Corinthians 9:1-14

18/03/2012

The Rights of an Apostle!
1st Corinthians 9:1-14

Suddenly Paul introduces a section on his position within the church and his salary! It seems totally out of place, but on close inspection it can be seen that it certainly is not! Consider what Paul has been saying so far about this problem of whether Christians should eat meat sacrificed to idols or not.

He has said that:-
* Knowledge on its own is never enough! Knowledge is good and important, but it is actually counter-productive if it is not tempered by love and grace. This is especially important when that knowledge is being taught to young or immature believers. It would be so easy for our knowledge to make us critical of others! Still, Paul argues that foundational Truth is vital! As we have said before, there are certain foundational truths on which we can never compromise, and which should help us to know where to draw the line when ethical decisions need to be made! In this case, in the matter of idolatry, there is only one God! That is absolutely basic to any discussion on the matter!

* There is one great over-riding principle which should be applied to every area of the Christian’s life. It is this; a Christian must never do ANYTHING which would cause another believer to stumble! Paul has argued that Christians are truly free! That freedom is important, and it needs to be cherished and protected. But although we are free, and although that freedom gives us certain rights, we are also to be careful how we exercise that freedom. Although we are no longer slaves to sin, the true Christian will have voluntarily surrendered in obedience to Christ. He will obey the Lord, and thus his freedom will be circumscribed. The believer will never want to disobey the Word of God! He will keep His statutes! Psalm 119:4-5 Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes! So a Christian will never exercise his rights in such a way as will cause another Christian to stumble. It is a very simple principle. Paul sums it up in Romans! Romans 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.

Now Paul gives us a practical example of this very important principle. He is an apostle. He has the Christian freedom that we all have. As an apostle he has certain privileges. He asks Am I not an apostle? am I not free? Now, bearing in mind Paul’s teaching in chapter 8, let us see what Paul does with the rights and freedoms of Christian apostleship that are his. Since Paul has introduced the matter of his own apostleship, this will allow us to examine the general issue of apostleship, as well as Paul’s application of his great principle of consideration for others.

The Roots of Apostleship
1st Cor. 9:1. Am I not an apostle? Paul’s Apostleship was closely related to his conversion, a well-known incident, found in Acts chapter 9. At Paul’s conversion, on the Damascus Road, The apostle had seen Jesus! have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? There was a light from heaven, there was a distinct voice from heaven, there was physical prostration, there was physical blindness, there was a period of fasting, and there was a vision of Ananias.
Now, sometimes we are tempted, in explaining these verses in a Gospel context, to spiritualise these phenomena. But these were real events. These things really happened! There was a very extraordinary supernatural element to Saul’s conversion. Bit then there was also a historical uniqueness to Saul’s conversion. Paul would have a foundational role in the church. He would be an apostle, and to be an apostle he would have to see the risen Saviour, for that was the mark of an apostle! 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 9:17 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. Acts 9:27 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 1 Corinthians 15:8
There are no appearances of Jesus today! There are those who would say that they have seen the Lord, either in some form of charismatic vision, or in some ‘near-death’ experience. They cannot have! They were or are deluded! For God’s Word says that the last person to see the Lord was Paul! The next time he will be seen by a mortal being is in glory, or at the second coming!

Now, notice that an apostle has a foundational work in the church. are not ye my work in the Lord? There are no apostles today! This follows on from the last point. If to be an apostle in Acts, you had to see the risen Lord, and no living man one has seen Him since, then ergo, there are more apostles! But there is further proof. Writing in Ephesians Paul shows that the apostles were part of the foundation of the church! Listen to how he puts it, And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; Ephesians. 2:20.
There is a structure to the church. Jesus is the chief cornerstone, then there is the foundation stones, then the building. Now, a builder does not erect a house, and them decide, after two storeys are built, to install another foundation! He builds on the foundation already laid!
There is a great danger today among those who delude themselves into thinking that they are modern day apostles. They put themselves into a position they do not have and which the Scriptures do not accord them, and then they act contrary to the Bible, issuing what they see as apostolic directives and commands, which need no biblical basis, for apostolic authority, they claim comes direct from God, and not through the Scriptures. This is commonplace among modern Charismatics, and sadly even among some Pentecostals who should know better.

The Recognition of Apostleship
Paul says, If I be not an apostle unto others. There were always some who would dispute the credentials of Paul. He had not been one of the original twelve. He defends his call to be an apostle in Galatians also. There he says, Galatians 1:11-12 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. So there were people in Corinth who did not like Paul, or his ministry. I wonder what it was about Paul that caused such dislike? Was it his messages, or his style, or his doctrine, or the way he lived, or his personality, or were they just complaining about the way he dressed? They wanted to turn the church at Corinth against him, and they did so by attempting to undermine his whole ministry.
But here we see Paul’s apostleship defended! yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord. The Corinthians would not be able to dispute the apostleship of Paul, for they had seen the results! They were the SEAL of his apostleship! I wonder how many at Corinth had been saved under Paul’s ministry? How many had been encouraged, been taught, had experienced spiritual growth, had been led into obedient service for the Lord…? In every case where ministry is disputed there are these two great tests. Is there a call from God, and has that call resulted in evidence that others could see with their own eyes? Now not everyone is an evangelist, nor a preacher, but every true servant of the Lord will see some evidence of his labours! Here is the Biblical foundation of this experience:- Mark 16:20 And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.

The Rights of Apostleship
Now, having declared that he is an apostle, and having defended his position as such, Paul shows that there are certain privileges accorded to apostles, which he could also legitimately claim! Chief among these is the right to FINANCIAL SUPPORT! Now there are some in the visible church who would argue that there is no Biblical warrant for a paid ministry. I partly agree. There is no place in the church for a PROFESSIONAL ministry! But there most certainly is a Biblical warrant for a minister to be supported by a local congregation, and this passage is part of that warrant. Paul sets out this privilege for us here in chapter 9:3-14, where three time he asks, “Have we no rights?”
* Has the minister no right to a reasonable living? 9:4. There is no sense here that ministry was a luxury! They just had to have enough to eat and to drink!
* Has the minister no right to reasonable expenses? 9:5 Paul travelled about from place to place, ministering the Word to the churches. The other apostles had wives, and of course, in those days travel took a long time. It was right that they should take their wives with them! It was also right that the churches to whom they ministered should provide for them as they moved from place to place.
* Has the minister no right to take time to prepare for his ministry? 9:6 This will often mean that he will have the correct time to lay aside to pray about his messages, prepare his messages and preach what the Lord has given him. That will also require that he will have time for his own personal quiet time with the Lord. The true minister of the Word is called primarily to teach the whole counsel of God from God’s own precious Word! This is very time consuming! The Biblical method is for the preacher of the Word to minister in a full time capacity! It was so in Acts, where the Apostles began to be over burdened with the practical work of running the church! They knew what the solution was. Acts 6:1-4 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. There it is! They were devoting themselves to full time ministry, and others would support them in that ministry. Paul and Barnabas had worked at secular employment while they were at Corinth, but they certainly had the right to be supported!

In verses 7-11 Paul gives four illustrations which back up his argument that a Minister has a RIGHT to be supported by the church to which he is ministering:-
* The RIGHTS of a soldier! Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges. The application is apparent! The Christian is a soldier in God’s army! What army does not support its leaders?
* The RIGHTS of a farmer! who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof. Again, note the application! The Christian ministry is all about sowing the good seed! Listen to Paul in verse 11. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
* The RIGHTS of a shepherd! or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock. The minister is often depicted as a shepherd! Should he not support himself from the milk given by the flock?
* The RIGHTS of God’s Law! 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? Paul’s answer to that question is found in verse 10, where he argues that God is more concerned about His own servants than he is about oxen! God is really telling us that when a minister is faithfully serving the Lord, he has the right to expect the financial and material support of the church. Although we are not apostles in this age, it is with these arguments that Paul lays the foundation of the Christian ministry and its support.

The Realism of Apostleship!
Now here is the point, with respect to the argument between the ‘eaters’ and the ‘abstainers.’ Paul has the right to full time support from the church, but there were some in Corinth who disputed his ministry, and therefore his RIGHT to this support. Paul could have simply demanded his right. But in accordance with his principle of not causing a brother to stumble, see what he does in verse 12. 1 Cor. 9:12 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. Rather than hinder the cause of Christ, and cause others harm, Paul laid aside his rights as an apostle, and went and took a job! He reinforces his point in verses 13-15a.

So Paul is an apostle, and as such he has certain privileges in the church, which are his by right of office. Yet he forgoes all of these great privileges, so that he may be instrumental in building up the church of Jesus Christ. He sacrifices his own rights and freedoms for the good and sake of others. In so doing he become a living illustration of his own stated principle, that we should do nothing that would cause another believer to stumble!

From → Sermon Notes

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