For the first time we see Paul emphasizing the fact that he is an apostle as much as the other 12 who were chosen to walk alongside Jesus in his 3 years of ministry. This will come up time and time again where he feels as if he has to defend himself because I am sure that there were some who felt that he was not a legitimate leader. He was a Johnny come lately who had a terrible history. But it becomes an even more acute point when we are dealing with finances. Apparently it was no problem if the apostles were compensated for their work. But Paul has to defend himself as to why he feels that he should be compensated for his work of sharing the Gospel. He speaks to the Corinthians recognizing that at least they see him as an apostle. He did, after all, plant the church in Corinth.
It is interesting that Paul in vs.5 says that apostles, disciples, workers in the field, have the right to have a wife. Those denominations that demand celibacy of its pastors must have a hard time getting around this verse. He spends an entire chapter on the rights and the expectations of one who works for the dissemination of the Gospel message. I have always admired and held in high esteem tent-makers. I have always thought that bi-vocational pastors were following Scripture in their calling much closer to what was expected and thought of from the beginning of the church movement than I am as a full-time pastor. I think of the Mennonite pastors who are completely bi-vocational and so understand Paul’s perspective completely.
Paul, starting in vs.19 and following, focuses on how he has made his life an attempt to be all things to all people. We have traditionally seen this way of life as being weak and wishy washy. He states: “To the weak, I became weak, so that I might win the weak.” He follows that up with: “I have become all things to all people that I might by all means save some.” Isn’t that our goal? Aren’t we commanded to win people to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? We are to do all in our power to win people over to Christ with all that we have and all that we are.
Paul never wants to disqualify himself by others thinking that he sees himself is above them. Pastor’s have to be careful that their education does not get in the way of serving people in a genuine way. Oftentimes degrees can get in the way of empathy and real love and concern for others. There are some who might think that a task around the church is below them. My perspective is that I will never, ever ask anyone to do anything that I would not do myself. When we see our roles as being over other people we have already lost the people. This is part of Paul’s point. We must rejoice and be glad that we are called to do even the most menial tasks for that is our calling.