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?
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(1) Am I not an apostle?—Better, Am I not free? am I not an Apostle? such being the order of the words in the better MSS. Thus the thought grows more naturally out of the previous chapter than it seems to do in the English version. He had mentioned his solemn resolve to give up a freedom to which he had a right in regard to eating meat. He had on another occasion, in regard to his right of maintenance by the Church, also voluntarily sacrificed his freedom, and the Jewish party had in consequence denied the existence of the rights, and questioned his apostolic dignity. He asks, with abrupt emphasis, “Was it because I am not free to demand such support? My freedom in this case is as real as in that other case when you questioned it, and to which I shall now refer. Was it because I am not an Apostle?”

Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?To have seen Christ was a necessary qualification for the Apostolate (Acts 1:21). From the manner in which the Apostle here asks the question, and does not answer it, it would seem that although some small minority might, for some party purpose, have at some time questioned it, yet that the fact was generally admitted and universally known that St. Paul did actually see the Lord at the time of his conversion (Acts 9:4), and on other occasions (Acts 18:9; Acts 22:17).

Are not ye my work in the Lord?—This is a further proof of his Apostleship, and therefore of his right or freedom to have demanded support from the Church. (See 1Corinthians 4:15.)

1 Corinthians 9:1-2. Am I not, &c. — It appears from this, and several other passages of the epistles to the Corinthians, that some of them, influenced probably by false teachers, who had crept in among them, objected to St. Paul’s being an apostle, because he had not asserted his privilege in demanding and receiving such maintenance from the churches as was due to that office, inferring from this circumstance that he did not judge himself entitled to any such privilege, and therefore had wrought at a trade, to support himself thereby. Hence, after deciding some very difficult questions, which the Corinthians had proposed to him, and particularly after affirming, in the end of chap. 7., that he had decided these questions by the inspiration of the Spirit; and after showing himself a faithful apostle of Christ, by declaring, in the end of the last chapter, his resolution on all occasions to abstain from things indifferent, rather than, by using his liberty respecting them, to lead his fellow-Christians into sin; he with great propriety introduces the proof of his apostleship, and answers all the objections and calumnies whereby his enemies endeavoured to discredit him in the eyes of the Corinthians. Am I not — As truly as any man living; an apostle? — Divinely appointed and commissioned by the Lord Jesus? Am I not free — To act as I think best, with regard to receiving a maintenance from those to whom I minister or not? Have I not the liberty of a common Christian, yea, and that of an apostle, so as to have a right to preach the gospel without reward, if I think fit so to do? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord — After his resurrection, so as to be able to bear witness to that important fact on my own knowledge, as confidently as those who saw him before I did? Unless he had seen Christ, he could not have been one of his first grand witnesses, could not have borne testimony to his resurrection on his own knowledge thereof. Are not you — In respect of your conversion, gifts, graces, privileges; my work in the Lord — The fruit of my ministry as an apostle among you, by means of God’s grace and power working with me? If I be not an apostle to others — So visibly and demonstratively; yet doubtless I am to you — Who, of all people in the world, can show the least excuse for questioning my mission; for the seal of my apostleship — The certain evidence of my divine call; are ye in the Lord — Who have not only received faith by my mouth, but all the gifts of the Spirit by my hands.

9:1-14 It is not new for a minister to meet with unkind returns for good-will to a people, and diligent and successful services among them. To the cavils of some, the apostle answers, so as to set forth himself as an example of self-denial, for the good of others. He had a right to marry as well as other apostles, and to claim what was needful for his wife, and his children if he had any, from the churches, without labouring with his own hands to get it. Those who seek to do our souls good, should have food provided for them. But he renounced his right, rather than hinder his success by claiming it. It is the people's duty to maintain their minister. He may wave his right, as Paul did; but those transgress a precept of Christ, who deny or withhold due support.Am I not an apostle? - This was the point to be settled; and it is probable that some at Corinth had denied that he could be an apostle, since it was requisite, in order to that, to have seen the Lord Jesus; and since it was supposed that Paul had not been a witness of his life, doctrines, and death.

Am I not free? - Am I not a free man; have I not the liberty which all Christians possess, and especially which all the apostles possess? The "liberty" referred to here is doubtless the privilege or right of abstaining from labor; of enjoying as others did the domestic relations of life; and of a support as a public minister and apostle. Probably some had objected to his claims of apostleship that he had not used this right, and that he was conscious that he had no claim to it. By this mode of interrogation, he strongly implies that he was a freeman, and that he had this right.

Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? - Here it is implied, and seems to be admitted by Paul, that in order to be an "apostle" it was necessary to have seen the Saviour. This is often declared expressly; see the note at Acts 1:21-22. The reason of this was, that the apostles were appointed to be witnesses of the life, doctrines, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and that in their "being witnesses" consisted the uniqueness of the apostolic office. That this was the case is abundantly manifest from Matthew 28:18-19; Luke 24:48; Acts 1:21-22; Acts 2:32; Acts 10:39-41. Hence, it was essential, in order that anyone should be such a witness, and an apostle, 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 Saviour, and who had not therefore had an 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, Acts 9:3-5, Acts 9:17. To the fact of his having been thus in a miraculous manner qualified for the apostolic office, Paul frequently appeals, and always with the same view that it was necessary to have seen the Lord Jesus to qualify one for this office, Acts 22:14-15; Acts 26:16; 1 Corinthians 15:8. It follows from this, therefore, that no one was an apostle in the strict and proper sense who had not seen the Lord Jesus. And it follows, also, that the apostles could have no successors in that which constituted the uniqueness of their office; and that the office must have commenced and ended with them.

Are not ye my work in the Lord? - Have you not been converted by my labors, or under my ministry; and are you not a proof that the Lord, when I have been claiminG to be an apostle, has owned me "as an apostle," and blessed me in this work? God would not give his sanction to an impostor, and a false pretender; and as Paul had labored there as an apostle, this was an argument that he had been truly commissioned of God. A minister may appeal to the blessing of God on his labors in proof that he is sent of Him. And one of the best of all arguments that a man is sent from God exists where multitudes of souls are converted from sin, and turned to holiness, by his labors. What better credentials than this can a man need that he is in the employ of God? What more consoling to his own mind? What more satisfactory to the world?


1Co 9:1-27. He Confirms His Teaching as to Not Putting a Stumbling-block in a Brother's Way (1Co 8:13) BY His Own Example in Not Using His Undoubted Rights as an Apostle, so as to Win Men to Christ.

1. Am I not an apostle? am I not free?—The oldest manuscripts read the order thus, "Am I not free? am I not an apostle?" He alludes to 1Co 8:9, "this liberty of yours": If you claim it, I appeal to yourselves as the witnesses, have not I also it? "Am I not free?" If you be so, much more I. For "am I not an apostle?" so that I can claim not only Christian, but also apostolic, liberty.

have I not seen Jesus—corporeally, not in a mere vision: compare 1Co 15:8, where the fact of the resurrection, which he wishes to prove, could only be established by an actual bodily appearance, such as was vouchsafed to Peter and the other apostles. In Ac 9:7, 17 the contrast between "the men with him seeing no man," and "Jesus that appeared unto thee in the way," shows that Jesus actually appeared to him in going to Damascus. His vision of Christ in the temple (Ac 22:17) was "in a trance." To be a witness of Christ's resurrection was a leading function of an apostle (Ac 1:22). The best manuscripts omit "Christ."

ye my work in the Lord—Your conversion is His workmanship (Eph 2:10) through my instrumentality: the "seal of mine apostleship" (1Co 9:2).1 Corinthians 9:1,2 Paul vindicateth his apostolical character,

1 Corinthians 9:3-14 and right to a maintenance from the churches,

1 Corinthians 9:15-18 though he relinquished that right for the

furtherance of the gospel, not content with

doing only his indispensable duty,

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 but voluntarily subjecting himself in many

points, where he was otherwise free, in order

thereby to win over more converts to Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:24,25 Those who contend for a corruptible crown use

much labour and abstinence.

1 Corinthians 9:26,27 So doth the apostle strive for one that is


Chapter Introduction

In the greater part of this chapter, the apostle proceedeth in his former discourse, not speaking particularly to the case of eating meat offered to idols, but to the general point, viz. That it is our duty to abate of our liberty, when we see we cannot use it without harm to other Christians. And here he proposeth to them his own example, who had restrained himself in three things, to two of which he had a liberty, and yet avoided it, and that not to prevent their sinning, but only their suffering, and that, too, only by being by him over-burdened:

1. As to eating and drinking.

2. Abstaining from marriage, by which he might have been more chargeable to them.

3. Requiring maintenance of them for his labour amongst them. As to both which he declares he had from God’s law a liberty, but had forborne to use that part from which the church in that state might be prejudiced.

Am I not an apostle? Some that are puffed up or seduced, will, it may be, deny that I am an apostle, a preacher of the gospel of the greatest eminency, immediately sent out by Christ to preach his gospel; but will any of you deny it?

Am I not free? Have I not the same liberty that any of you have in things wherein the law of God hath no more determined me than you? What charter of liberty hath God given to any of you more than he hath to me?

Have I not seen Jesus Christ? Did not I see Christ in my going to Damascus? Acts 9:5 22:13,14; and when I was in my ecstasy, when I was rapt into the third heavens? 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; in prison? Acts 23:11. He was the only apostle we read of, who saw Christ after his ascension.

Are not ye my work in the Lord? If others will not look upon me as an apostle: God having wrought nothing upon their souls by my ministry, yet you, whose faith is my work, though in the Lord, as the principal efficient Cause, yet by me as God’s instrument, cannot deny me to be so: if my having seen Jesus Christ, and being immediately sent out by him, be not enough to prove me so to you, yet the effects of my ministry upon you puts it past your denial.

Am I not an apostle? am I not free?.... The Syriac, Ethiopic, and Vulgate Latin versions, put the last clause first; so the Alexandrian copy, and some other copies; and many interpreters are of opinion that it is the best order of the words; the apostle proceeding by a gradation from the less to the greater, having respect either to his freedom in the use of things indifferent, as eating of meats, &c. for though he did not think fit to use his liberty, to the wounding of weak consciences, 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 respect to his freedom from the ceremonial law in general; for though, for the sake of gaining souls to Christ, he became all things to all men; to the Jews he became a Jew, that he might gain them; yet in such a manner as to preserve his liberty in Christ, without entangling himself with the yoke of bondage. Some have thought he intends, by his liberty, his right to insist upon a maintenance, and that he was no more obliged to work with his hands than other persons, of which he treats at large hereafter; but to me it rather seems that the words stand in their right order; and that, whereas there were some persons that either denied him to be an apostle, or at least insinuated that he was not one, nor was he to be treated as such, he goes upon the proof of it; and the first thing he mentions is his freedom, that is, from men; no man had any authority over him; he was not taught, nor sent forth, nor ordained by men as a minister, but immediately by Jesus Christ, as apostles were; they were set in the first place in the church, and had power to instruct, send forth, and ordain others; but none had power over them; and this being the apostle's case, proved him to be one; he was an apostle, because he was free:

have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? He had a spiritual sight of him by faith, but that did not show 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; it is very probable he might; 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, 1 Corinthians 15:8 and designs here, as a proof of his apostleship, this being what the apostles were chosen to be eyewitnesses of, Acts 10:41 and publish to the world: now our apostle saw him several times; first at the time of his conversion, next when in a trance at Jerusalem, 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 you my work in the Lord? as they were regenerated, converted persons, and were become new creatures; not efficiently, but instrumentally; they were God's workmanship, as he was the efficient cause of their conversion and faith; his only, as an instrument by whom they believed; and therefore he adds, "in the Lord"; ascribing the whole to his power and grace: however, as he had been the happy instrument of first preaching the Gospel to them, and of begetting them again through it; of founding and raising such a large flourishing church as they were; it was no inconsiderable proof of his apostleship.

Am {1} I not an apostle? am I not free? {2} have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye {a} my work in the Lord?

(1) Before he proceeds any further in his purposed matter of things offered to idols, he would show the cause of all this evil, and also take it away. That is, that the Corinthians thought that they did not have to depart from the least amount of their liberty for any man's pleasure. Therefore he propounds himself for an example, and that in a matter almost necessary. And yet he speaks of both, but first of his own person. If (he says) you allege for yourselves that you are free, and therefore will use your liberty, am I not also free, seeing I am an apostle?

(2) He proves his apostleship by the effects, in that he was appointed by Christ himself, and the authority of his function was sufficiently confirmed to him among them by their conversion. And all these things he sets before their eyes, to make them ashamed because they would not in the least way that might be, debase themselves for the sake of the weak, whereas the apostle himself did all the he could to win them to God, when they were utterly reprobate and without God.

(a) By the Lord.

1 Corinthians 9:1. The first two questions bring out the fact that he was seemingly exalted far above any such consideration and renunciation on his own part as he had announced in 1 Corinthians 8:13; the third question corroborates the full purport of the second; and the fourth places him in probative relation to his readers, whom Paul καὶ αὐτοὺς εἰς μαρτυρίαν καλεῖ, Theodoret.

ἐλεύθερος] free, dependent upon no man. Comp 1 Corinthians 9:19.

ἸΗΣΟῦΝἙΏΡΑΚΑ] Observe the solemnity of the phrase; his readers knew what was implied in it on his lips. The reference here is not to his having seen Christ in His earthly life, which would have had nothing to do with his apostleship, and which, moreover, cannot be proved to have taken place in the case of Paul at all,—certainly not from 2 Corinthians 5:16,—but to the sight of the glorified Jesus, which was first vouchsafed near Damascus to call him to be an apostle (Acts 9:17; Acts 22:14 f., Acts 26:16; Acts 15:8), and was often repeated afterwards, although in different forms (Acts 18:9; Acts 22:17 f.; 2 Corinthians 12:1).[1394] It is an arbitrary thing to exclude those later appearances (Estius, Flatt, Billroth, Olshausen, Osiander, Hofmann), since they, too, were granted to the apostle as such, and in connection with his apostolic relation to Christ; they could only serve to confirm his position of equality in the apostleship, and in this bearing were doubtless familiar to his readers from Paul’s own lips.

ἐν Κυρίῳ] does not belong to ἔργον; just as little does it to ὑμεῖς (Pott), or to ὑμεῖς ἐστε alone (Rückert), but is meant to bring out the Christian character of the whole τὸ ἔργον μ. ὑμεῖς ἐστε. For out of Christ, in whom (as the object of faith) the Christian lives and moves, outside of this element of the new life and standing, the Corinthians, who owed their Christian existence to the apostle, were not his work. The rendering: by the help of the Lord, is arbitrary, and does not suit the context. Some of those who adopt it understand Κύριος of God (Beza, Piscator, Flatt, Rückert, al[1395], following Chrysostom and Theophylact). Comp 1 Corinthians 4:15.

[1394] Baur takes advantage of this stress laid on the fact of having seen Christ, to support his hypothesis as to the close connection of the Petrine and the Christ-party. See against this Räbiger, p. 128 f. According to Schenkel, the allusion is to the visions of the Christ-party (the existence of which he has first of all to assume). The true view is, that Paul is here indicating how, in respect of this point also, he stands in no whit behind the original apostles. Ἐπειδὴ μετὰ τὴν ἀνάληψιν τοῦ σωτῆρος ἐκλήθη, εἶχον δὲ δόξαν οἱ ἀκόστολοι παρὰ πᾶσι μεγίστην ὡς τῆς τοῦ Κυρίου θεάς ἠξιωμένοι, καὶ τοῦτο προστέθεικεν, Theodoret. And it is no lower thing to have seen Christ in His glory than to have seen Him in His humiliation upon the earth. Comp. Calvin. As against the interpretations which make this a visionary beholding of Christ (Baur, Holstein, al.), see Beyschlag in the Stud. u. Krit. 1864, p. 220 f. How very distinctly Paul himself describes, especially in Acts 22:14, a bodily appearance! See also Galatians 1:1, comp. with ver. 15. Nothing contrary to this can be proved from the words ἑωρακέναι and ὀφθῆναι (1 Corinthians 15:8), since these do not determine the kind of seeing and appearing. Comp. e.g. the use of the latter term in Acts 7:26 of a bodily appearing.

[1395] l. and others; and other passages; and other editions.

1 Corinthians 9:1-6. § 27. PAUL’S APOSTOLIC STATUS. The Ap. is ready to forego his right to use the idolothyta, wherever this claim hurts the susceptibilities of any brother (1 Corinthians 8:13). He is “free” as any man in Cor[1274] in such respects; more than this, he is “an apostle” (1 Corinthians 9:1), and the Church of Cor[1275] is witness to the fact, being itself his answer to all challengers (1 Corinthians 9:2 f.). If so, he has the right to look to his Churches for maintenance, and that in the ordinary comfort of married life—a claim unquestioned in the case of his colleagues in the apostleship (1 Corinthians 9:4-6).

[1274] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

[1275] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

Ch. 1 Corinthians 9:1-14. St Paul’s Defence of his Apostolic Authority

1. Am I not an apostle? am I not free?] This chapter is devoted to a defence of the Apostolic authority of St Paul, but there is an under-current of thought connecting it with the last which may easily be missed. In ch. 8. St Paul has been exhorting the Corinthians to sacrifice their own personal predilections for the benefit of others. In 1 Corinthians 9:13 he declares himself to be ready to act upon this principle to the uttermost. But some may say, “Fine doctrine this, but does the Apostle practise what he preaches?” Robertson. He is about to give a proof of his sincerity by referring to his sacrifice of self for the good of others, when he anticipates in his mind the reply, You have no power to do otherwise: you are not an Apostle at all; and he replies to each of these statements in his usual fervid way, by asking of each of them, Is it really then true? This connection of ideas is strengthened if with the majority of MSS. and the Syriac and Vulgate versions (so Wiclif, Whethir I am not free? am I not Apostle?) we transpose the two clauses, and read, “Am I not free? am I not an Apostle? The argument is admirably summarized by Bp Wordsworth thus: “Am I not free? Am I not an Apostle? Am I not your Apostle?”

have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?] One distinction drawn by St Paul’s opponents between him and the other Apostles was that they had seen and associated with Christ, while he had not. He rebuts this in the form of a question. He had seen the Lord (1) in the way to Damascus (Acts 9:3; Acts 9:17); (2) after his return to Jerusalem (Acts 22:17, cf. 1 Corinthians 9:14 of the same chapter, and Acts 9:26; Galatians 1:18); (3) at Corinth itself (Acts 18:9, where observe that the Greek word does not signify dream, since it is used of the burning bush in Acts 7:31 as well as of the transfiguration in St Matthew 17:9); (4) on some occasion not specified (2 Corinthians 12:1), but probably during the Apostle’s sojourn in Arabia (Galatians 1:17), unless indeed it be the vision above-mentioned in Acts 22.

1 Corinthians 9:1. Οὐκ εἰμὶ ἐλεύθερος, οὐκ εἰμὶ ἀπόστολος;) am I not free? am I not an apostle?) There is a transposition of these two clauses in the present received reading:[68] but Paul first lays down the proposition, I am free; then, the reason of it [by aetiology. Append.], I am an apostle; and there is a hendiadys in this sense, I am entitled not only to Christian, but also to apostolic liberty. We have a chiasmus[69] in the discussion of the subject: for in it he first claims for himself the apostleship, 1 Corinthians 9:1-3, then he asserts his liberty, and that too as an apostle, 1 Corinthians 9:4-5; 1 Corinthians 9:19, [whereas in the statement of subject, 1 Corinthians 9:1, ‘free’ comes first, ‘apostle’ next]. That, which free is in the adjective, 1 Corinthians 9:1, ἐξουσία, power, is in the substantive, 1 Corinthians 9:4; comp. 1 Corinthians 8:9.—οὐχὶεὥρακα, have I—not seen?) Observe the firmness of the apostle.—τὸ ἔργον μου, my work) A testimony derived from actual facts, which is the strongest.

[68] AB Vulg. Memph. Syr. Orig. 4,266 b, support the order as in Bengel D G fg later Syr. put ἀπόστολος before ἐλεύθερος, as in Rec. Reading.—ED.

[69] See Appendix.

Verses 1-27. - The rights and the self denial of an apostle. Verses 1-14. - An apostle's right to maintenance. Verse 1. - Am I not an apostle I am I not free? The order of the best manuscripts is, Am I not free? am I not an apostle? St. Paul designed in this chapter to show that he was not only giving a precept, but setting an example, He told the "strong" Corinthians, who had "knowledge," that they should be ready to abnegate their rights for the good of others, he now wishes to show them that, in a matter which affected his whole life, he had himself abnegated his own rights. Being free and an apostle, he could, if he had chosen, have claimed, as others had done, a right to be supported by the Churches to which he preached, he had thought it more for their good to waive this claim, and therefore he had done so at the cost (as appears in many other passages: 1 Corinthians 4:12; Acts 20:34; 1 Thessalonians 2:9) of bitter hardship to himself. But St. Paul practically "goes off" at the word "apostle." It was so essential for him to vindicate, against the subterranean malignity of hostile partisans, his dignity as an apostle, that in asserting that authority he almost loses sight for the time of the main object for which he had alluded to the fact. Hence much that he says is of the nature of a digression - though an important one - until he resumes the main thread of his subject at 1 Corinthians 11:15. Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Doubtless he mainly refers to the vision on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:8), though he received other visions and revelations also (Acts 18:9; Acts 22:14, 18; 2 Corinthians 12:1, etc.). he had probably not seen Christ during his life on earth (see my 'Life of St. Paul,' 1:73-75). The words are added to remind them that those who boasted of personal knowledge and relation with Jesus - perhaps the Christ party - had no exclusive prerogative. Are not ye my work in the Lord? I am not only an apostle, but emphatically your apostle (Acts 18:1-11; 1 Corinthians 4:15). 1 Corinthians 9:1Seen Jesus

See 1 Corinthians 15:8; Acts 9:17; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:17, Acts 22:18; 2 Corinthians 12:1 sqq. Compare Acts 22:14.

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