This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
1 Corinthians 9:1-15
New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)
The Rights of an Apostle
9 Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? 2 If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 This is my defence to those who would examine me. 4 Do we not have the right to our food and drink? 5 Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a believing wife,[a] as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? 6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? 7 Who at any time pays the expenses for doing military service? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not get any of its milk?
8 Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law also say the same? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ Is it for oxen that God is concerned? 10 Or does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was indeed written for our sake, for whoever ploughs should plough in hope and whoever threshes should thresh in hope of a share in the crop. 11 If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? 12 If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we still more?
Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is sacrificed on the altar? 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.
15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this so that they may be applied in my case. Indeed, I would rather die than that—no one will deprive me of my ground for boasting!
He does go on a bit here about the fact that he works to finance his mission. I guess that’s because he’s unsure that the Corinthians still recognise him as an apostle of Messiah Jesus. So one motive for his defence is his own hurt feelings which show through his righteous rhetoric. He defends his apostleship two grounds:
1. He has seen Jesus our Lord.
2. The Corinthians received their faith through his ministry.
In the first case he means the risen Jesus who is the Lord (Gk Kyrios). Here he must be referring to what he calls the “appearance” of the Risen Messiah to himself as “one born abnormally” (1 Corinthians 15). Only the book of The Acts gives the story of the Damascus road.Paul merely says “it pleased God to reveal his Son in me”. But he does claim that this appearance was of the same kind as those to the original apostles. This allows us to think of the appearances of the Risen Lord as events in the human psyche; they are of the same substance as other “visions” recorded throughout history. I’m not suggesting that they were unreal, simply that they occurred in a “natural” way. Receiving such a vision as truthful involves a decision of the person who receives it. In Paul’s case, this involved a profound recognition of his life’s wrongness along with trust in God’s forgiveness and call to a new life. There must have been every reason to dismiss such a vision as a trick of the mind. The presence of the risen Lord is an invitation to faith in his reality, not a supernatural proof of it.
In the second case Paul suggests that if the Corinthians think of themselves as believers, they must also think of him as an apostle, as they cannot deny that he brought them the gospel.
The information he gives about other apostles, including Peter, travelling with their believing wives, and doubtless, receiving hospitality for them, is interesting. It suggests a sensible normality about the apostles, which is easy to forget when we read the sometimes overcharged descriptions by Paul, to whom terrible things are always happening and whose sacrifices are always more absolute than your average apostle’s. Indeed if the first bishop of Rome was married, why shouldn’t his successors be? Perhaps there is no greater gift Pope Francis could give to the church, than to get married. Which he could follow by ordaining women priests-at one bound freeing the Catholic Church from the smelly maleness it has exuded for so long. Go Francis!
Listen, people who like this suggestion could perhaps get a petition going, or start a campaign on twitter……
Paul ends this diatribe by admitting that he’s been “boasting” about his deeds of faith, the very thing he’s told the Corinthians they mustn’t do. There’s a nice touch of rueful humour here which we might do well to imitate when we’re on our high horse.