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The Scriptorium

Proof of Calling

Paul had it in spades. 1 Corinthians 9.1-7

1 Corinthians 9 (1)

Pray Psalm 20.1-3.
May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble;
May the name of the God of Jacob defend you;
May He send you help from the sanctuary,
And strengthen you out of Zion;
May He remember all your offerings,
And accept your burnt sacrifice.

Sing Psalm 20.1-3.
(St. Leonard’s: May the Mind of Christ, My Savior)
Jesus, Savior, hear my pleading, set me safely, LORD, on high;
help me by Your gracious leading and receive my cry.

May You by Your Church support me; gladly, LORD, receive my praise;
may my thanks a good report be with You all my days.

Read and meditate on 1 Corinthians 9.1-7.

1. To what did Paul point as proof of his calling?

2. What issue did he raise with the Corinthians?

Suddenly, it seems, Paul became indignant. Was he anticipating that his harangue of the Corinthians through the previous eight chapters might have chafed them a bit? Raised some hackles? Perhaps even had some of them thinking, “Who does this guy think he is?”

That seems probable to me, because Paul felt a need to remind the Corinthians that he was called of God and used by Him in their midst (vv. 1, 2). They were the proof of his calling, the evidence of God working through him, the divine seal of approval on his apostleship.

Yet he knew that his ministry was always being scrutinized, that some sought a reason to depart from him and his teaching to follow other—and false—teachers (v. 3). Paul turned the tables, shining the light of examination not on the veracity of his ministry but on the churlishness of those who were blessed by it (vv. 4-7). Did the Corinthians never suppose that Paul might like to have food and shelter provided while he labored in their midst (v. 4)? Did it never occur to them that he and Barnabas might have wives who needed their support (vv. 5, 6)? Were they content to let Paul pay his own way to serve them, to labor at his ministry without their contributing one drachma to his support (v. 7)?


Paul could prove that God had been at work in him and that he had been faithful in his calling. The Corinthians? Not so much. Paul will have more to say about this matter, but his purpose here was to arrest any grumbling about his teaching, remind them of his faithful example, and challenge them to look within themselves: Were they carrying out their calling as faithfully as he?

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162.
“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, ‘Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!’ Then His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up’” (Jn. 2.13-17).

God once used a misplaced dog’s paw—aiming for a shoulder but catching a face—to release previously pent-up, righteous anger (not at the dog), and to begin to free one of our children from an abusive and hateful marital relationship. Meekness is power under control, not weakness under someone’s boot. Jesus was meekness personified, and yet in righteous anger, free to drive out those who were abusing His Father’s house.

Whatever tripped Paul’s switch at this juncture did us all a big favor. He, like Jesus, was giving us permission to speak truth to sin. Always keeping in mind, though, that we must “not think of [ourselves] more highly than we ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Rom. 12.3).

Paul was upset about the inequity. The Corinthians were not thinking about him as a person, with needs and desires. They, through their ungenerous and disobedient behaviors, were saying to him, in so many words, “We do not value you or your teaching.” They viewed him as a commodity, not a beloved teacher. The questions he asked were so pointed and heartfelt: Is it just Barnabas and me that you feel you can treat so cavalierly? Are we the only ones who must work continuously to keep ourselves afloat? Do soldiers pay to go fight? Do vineyard owners never eat of their produce? Do those that own a flock never drink the milk produced? (1 Cor. 9.4-7).

Then he felt it necessary to give his credentials (1 Cor. 9.1, 2). He did this from a heart of love and concern for those that would follow him in the work of the Kingdom. He was setting down parameters for those who would work full-time in ministry.

All Christians have a Personal Mission Field and are given work to do in the Kingdom. It is merely that some put on the hat of pastor/teacher as their employment. Just like any other job that people do, they should be paid for it.

Two things then:
Righteous indignation is not wrong.
“Indignation has taken hold of me because of the wicked, who forsake Your law” (Ps. 119.53).
Pay your pastors.
“For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages’” (1 Tim. 5.18; Deut. 25.4).

Zeal for God’s work is invigorating!
“Jesus Christ…gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus 2.13, 14).

For reflection
1. What is righteous indignation? Why is it sometimes needed?

2. How does God intend those who minister the Word to be supported?

3. How would you be able to know if there was anything in your life that might cause God to become indignant toward you? What should you do then?

It is not new for a minister to meet with unkind returns for goodwill to a people, and diligent and successful services among them. To the cavils of some, the apostle answers, so as to set forth himself as an example of self-denial, for the good of others.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on 1 Corinthians 9.1-14

Pray Psalm 20.4-9.
Pray for an opportunity to “raise a banner” for Jesus today. Call on God to give you strength and to trust in Him just when you need it, so that you might be faithful to your calling.

Sing Psalm 20.4-9.
(St. Leonard’s: May the Mind of Christ, My Savior)
Grant my every earnest longing. Let my counsel be fulfilled.
May I joyous song be strong in, living in Your will.

In Your Name we raise our banners;
LORD, fulfill our every prayer!
Saved are we in glorious manner, free from every care.

Answer from Your holy heaven, save us by Your mighty hand!
Some to earthly boasts are given; in Your grace we stand.

They have bowed and fallen, Savior, while we rise and stand upright;
grant to us Your royal favor, hear us day and night.

T. M. and Susie Moore

The Church in Corinth was in need of revival. But there was much to be done before that would happen. The Church today is in need of revival, and the same is true for us. Our book, Revived!, can help us to discern our need for revival and lead us in getting there. Order your copy by clicking

Support for Scriptorium comes from our faithful and generous God, who moves our readers to share financially in our work. If this article was helpful, please give Him thanks and praise.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter, available by 
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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