1st Corinthians – Defending Paul’s Apostolic Authority

December 15, 2008

The character of Paul’s language changes distinctly in Chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians as he attempts to reassert his role as an apostle. Some among the brethren of Corinth felt apostles would not need to work to support themselves, and viewed his working to support his ministry as a demerit on his authority. He responds by saying "I [am an apostle] to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord" (v 2). He continues by asserting the rights of an apostle through a series of rhetorical questions.

Using sound rabbinical arguments, he asserts that God allows the workers to partake of the fruit of their labor (Cf. v. 8-12). These statements are not Paul’s attempt to amass material gains, but assert his authority as an apostle. As he continues, his temper begins to reveal itself in the verbiage (Cf. v 14). He hits on the cornerstone of his argument when he states "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" and "What then is my reward? Just this: that in my preaching I may make the gospel free of charge, not making full use of my right in the gospel" (v 16, 18). Always trying to save as many souls as possible he reflects how he "became all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (v 23). He closes the chapter with a lively exhortation that the Corinthians strive for holiness through self-restraint and exertion like an athlete strives for victory (Cf. v 24-27).

Returning to his previous language-style in Chapter 10, he uses the example of their Jewish forefathers to instruct the troubled church. After illustrating the sacramental gifts that the Israelites received from God he warns the people not to partake unworthily or without gratitude, lest they die like many of the Israelites. He ever attempting to bring the conceited Corinthians to greater holiness, he provides hope against temptation by stating "God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (v 13).

Returning to his railing against idolatry, he asks "The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ?" so that he may come to his eucharistic theology "The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (v 16). This is to establish that one cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons, and that meat sacrificed to idols is inherently demonic.

He instructs the Judaizers by saying "All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful" (v 23). He also allows that "if one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question" except it becomes clear that this meat was sacrificed to an idol (v 27).

Finally, in the beginning of Chapter 11, Paul addresses the issue of women’s head coverings.

Music: Sergei Rachmaninoff’s 6 Moments Musicaux Op. 16 – Adagio sostenuto from the album Moments Musicaux, performed by Elizabeth Wolff. www.magnatune.com

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