1Co 9:1-4 “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? 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. Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, Have we not power to eat and to drink?”
Paul has addressed many issues that the church at Corinth was facing in that day. He has given advice with the authority of the Holy Spirit, and held the brethren accountable for their actions. Knowing our Adam nature, I can imagine that there were some at Corinth who had the attitude towards Paul of “Just who does he think he is!” Paul is here answering that attitude so common to our nature when we have been rebuked.
Although posed as questions, Paul is not really asking as though there were some doubt about the matter. He is directing our attention to who he is and the proof of his claim. He begins with the calling that gives him the authority to correct and counsel: he is an apostle of Jesus Christ sent by Him to the brethren at Corinth.
As an apostle and prisoner of Jesus Christ, Paul is certainly free. Being the Lord’s prisoner, Paul was free from the bondage of sin. He was free from the confines of the ceremonial law. He was free from the errors that the brethren in Corinth were embroiled in at the time. Paul was free from the concern of what others thought of him.
The scriptures do not indicate whether Paul ever saw Jesus before His crucifixion. He certainly was not with the disciples immediately following Jesus’ resurrection. However, Paul “saw” Him on the road to Damascus in a mighty way. Jesus was seen of Paul in a trance when he was praying in the temple (Act 22:17-21) and again when he was in prison (Act 23:11). Paul also saw Him by the same faith as the brethren at Corinth, which he reminds them of by referring to “Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Paul then calls on them to consider their own experience of grace. He came to them at the urging of the Spirit and remained with them for an extended period of time. Under the preaching of the gospel by Paul, the Corinthians were convicted of their sinful nature and their need of their Savior. They were convinced of the resurrection of Christ from the dead and were witnesses of many mighty works (2Co 12:12).
Finally, Paul told them it did not matter what other people thought. While he was certainly an apostle to others as well, he reminded them that his labor among them was all the proof they needed. There could be no doubt as to his apostleship at Corinth, because their experience of grace was the very seal of the Lord upon this work. He had given sufficient proof to those that questioned him and reminded them that they (he and Barnabas) had a right to expect certain things, even if they did not exercise that right.
As ministers of God today, our seal is in the praise and glory brought to Jesus Christ through the labor He has called us and blessed us to perform. Our proof is not in the accolades of men. The proof is in His use of us to edify and encourage the brethren through the freedom that is ours in Him.
May we never fall prey to trying to satisfy the requirements of men and rather point to the power of God in our lives!