1 Corinthians 9:1…
Paul has been addressing the question of Christian liberty, and now he follows on with the issue of our ‘rights’ as Christians.
Do Christians have rights?
Now we see a bit of the sort of accusations some in the church at Corinth may have been making against Paul, as he brings himself into the question pertaining to what even he has a ‘right’ to do as a Christian.
He seems to be defending his actions as their evangelist and teacher in this discussion as he compares himself and his rights as a Christian to being equal to other well-known teachers and evangelists they have been visited by or known of.
I am “your apostle,” Paul says, referring in a pretty straightforward way to the debt they should sense toward himself. He is reminding them again he is their spiritual father. (Who are they – Paul might say – to bring accusation against him pertaining to his life of piety?)
Paul is saying, “If you would look at yourselves you would see that if it were not for me you would not know Christ to begin with. Who are you to then set some sort of standard of for my life as a missionary – and I might add – why would the standard you set for my life be greater than the standard set for others?”
Further, Paul argues his denial of the rights he hasas a Christian, even in the face of whatever accusations seem to be being made against himself.
Paul asserts his ‘right’ to food and drink, even as he denies his liberty at risk of even potentially causing a brother to stumble.
Paul asserts his ‘right’ to bring along a believing wife, as other missionaries including Peter have done. (Even though he presently does not have a wife.)
Paul asserts his right to earn a living from the spiritual fruit he is responsible for planting, even citing God’s Law as a basis for his claim. (In this case comparing God’s Law to what may be considered Natural Law – wherein the spiritual principle is also observable in nature. (The farmer who tills the soil and plants the seed eats of the produce. Even the livestock employed in the work are to have access to food as they work so they will not lack the energy to do the work.)
All of this is common-sensical as well as spiritually-sensitive. But Paul goes further – reminding them he took advantage of NONE of these rights while he was with them – ALL for the sake of the gospel – and in seeking to avoid the very kind of accusations being made against Paul here confusing the purity of the gospel he delivered.