Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Paul’s Divine Calling (1 Corinthians 9:1-2)

"Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" (1 Cor. 9:1).

Paul leaves his discussion of conscience to defend his right as an apostle. He had just declared how he had given up his rights to eat meat for the sake of the weaker brethren. He goes on to say at the beginning of chapter 9 that as a Christian and an apostle, he is free to exercise, or not exercise, his rights as he wishes. Because he is free in Christ, he is not bound by the opinions of men, as he said earlier in the letter, but he is free to do what he wishes. That might involve giving up certain liberties so that he can be “all things to all men,” or it might involve his continuing commitment to serve Christ despite the challenges of those who do not believe him to be an apostle.

In verses 1–2, Paul again outlines what it means to be an apostle. This is important for him to emphasize because his apostleship means authority. If he had not been an apostle, the people in Corinth were not constrained to listen to him. But because he had been called by Christ Himself, he was an apostle. His calling was also affirmed by the conversion of those in Corinth, who had listened to his teaching and been converted by the power of the Spirit.

“There are three kinds of evidence of the apostleship,” Hodge wrote. “1. The immediate commission from Christ in the sight of witnesses, or otherwise confirmed. 2. Signs and wonders, and mighty deeds, 2 Cor. 12:12. 3. The success of their ministry. No man could be an apostle who had not seen the Lord Jesus after His resurrection, because that was one of the essential facts of which they were to be the witnesses, Acts 1:22. Neither could any man be an apostle who did not receive his knowledge of the gospel by immediate revelation from Christ, for the apostles were the witnesses also of His doctrines, Acts 1:8; 10:39; 22:15; Gal. 1:12.… The conversion of men is a divine work, and those by whom it is accomplished are thereby authenticated as divine messengers.” This, however, should not be abused. Sometimes people are converted despite the errors of preachers who have no true calling. But there are cases, as with the apostles, when the work was so profound and true that it evidenced their call.

According to the biblical definition of an apostle in the verses below, why are apostles no longer present in the church today? If we do not have apostles, how are the doctrines of Christ transmitted? What made the teachings of the apostles authoritative? In what ways do you submit to the authority of the Scriptures?