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Apostolic Authority

1 Corinthians 9:1-6
Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? Even though I may not be an apostle to others, surely I am to you! For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defence to those who sit in judgment on me. Don't we have the right to food and drink? Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas? Or is it only I and Barnabas who lack the right to not work for a living? (NIVUK)

The Apostle Paul was under attack. Although he had founded the church in Corinth (Acts 18:1-11), other visiting preachers were probably not so direct about the need to be committed to discipleship. Some may have been false teachers; others may have compromised their faith by tolerating old pagan religious practices in the church. Others opposed him simply because he set such a high standard of Christian living.
But Paul had met the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 9:3-6) and been personally tutored by Him (Galatians 1:11-12). He understood the freedoms which came with the grace of God but he still voluntarily chose to forgo those liberties if they would confuse other people about Jesus (1 Corinthians 8:13). It was a life of hardship and self-sacrifice. He wanted to set the best example to believers and church leaders. He chose not to marry so he could focus on gospel ministry. He could have asked for money to support him and his work but, instead, he chose to earn his own living.
But the paradox in the Corinthians' criticism of Paul was that many of them had come to faith through his ministry. They only knew about Jesus because Paul told them. In one sense, they were the proof that Paul was divinely appointed as an Apostle, because they received new life through believing his authoritative teaching. His authority was validated by their faith in Jesus (Philippians 4:1), and yet they despised him and his authority, wanting spiritual benefits without sacrificial discipleship.
It is not uncommon for once-enthusiastic believers to despise their leaders when the challenges of living for Christ are uncomfortable. The arrogant few lead a gullible crowd into self-satisfying fellowship away from the apostolic gospel. Yes, they may patronise mission, as long as they do not have to do it, and say they follow Jesus, but significantly edit the teaching of the Apostle Paul whom Jesus appointed. Alas, their barbed arrows wound God's servant whose teaching gave them life, making his or her life's calling all the more difficult to carry out. It may be that parallels the ministry of Jesus and the apostles … but believers really ought to know better by now. Accept the full weight of apostolic authority in the Scriptures and find the blessing which comes to obedient disciples of Jesus!

Sovereign Lord. Thank You for appointing apostles who Jesus instructed to teach the authentic gospel. Forgive me when I try to modify their message because it does not sit comfortably with the society in which I live. Please help me to be thoroughly Christian by accepting the authoritative teaching Christ gave to His apostles. Help me to learn to live sacrificially and tell the gospel faithfully as I live sacrificially. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams