The Fifteenth in a Series of Sermons on First Corinthians
Although we are 2000 years removed from the ancient Greek city of Corinth, we accept Paul’s apostolic authority without question. For many of us, Paul is our favorite New Testament writer because he teaches so many of the doctrines we hold dear. It is hard for us to imagine that Paul had to defend his own apostolic authority in a church which he himself helped to found. Yet that is the case in 1 Corinthians 9. Paul cannot tell the strong among the Corinthians to act in a certain way toward the weak, if he himself does not practice what he preaches. And so Paul now spells out his approach to dealing with Jewish and Gentile believers in the midst of a pagan culture.
In chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians, Paul continues to address problems arising from the practice of meat being sacrificed to idols. Apparently, some in the Corinthian church were using Paul’s voluntary surrender of his liberty to eat all things as an argument that Paul’s apostolic authority was limited. Even though Paul was free to eat all things, he realized that doing so might offend the weak, so in such cases, Paul abstained. As we saw last time in chapter 8, Paul explained that Christian liberty is not freedom to do whatever we want, but liberation to do as we ought. Love for our brethren trumps Christian freedom.
Paul develops two basic lines of defense regarding his apostolic authority. These are stated in the form of a series of rhetorical questions. The first is that Paul is indeed an apostle with all the rights and privileges thereof. A second point is that no Christian should use their liberty without due regard for the weak–just as Paul has done. This is especially problematic given the fact that Paul apparently ate Gentile food when in Gentile settings, even as he abstained in Jewish settings. It may have appeared to some that Paul is vacillating. So Paul defends his behavior. He has done nothing wrong, or inconsistent with his apostolic calling. This is evident by the fact that he preaches the gospel voluntarily, even though he is entitled to be paid for his labor in the churches.
To the rest of this sermon, Click Here