Don't we have the right to live in your homes and share your meals?
Don't we have the right to bring a Christian wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord's brothers do, and as Peter does?
Or is it only Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves? (1 Cor 9:4–6)
Verse 4 is probably a reference to the apostleship issue. For those working hard for the gospel there was a biblical basis for them to expect a living from what they were doing provided by those to whom they ministered. The same basis on which the Levites were provided for by the body and did not receive an inheritance. The Greek question is expecting a negative answer in reply, “You surely won’t say (will you?) that we don’t have the right,” Of course we have the right, we are apostles. This way of asking the question is a strong way of affirming a point. Some were clearly basing their claim that Paul was not a true apostle on the fact that he didn’t gain a living from his apostleship but chose to work with hands to provide for himself. He will expand on this in the verse to come.
Then we have the interesting statement, "Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife?"
The phrase "a sister, a wife", is an Hebraism. The Jews called their wives, sisters. The apostles had the right to take with them, women to minister of their substance, and provide for them and care for their needs. While it could be thought that Paul comment here cuts across what he has been saying about the churches providing for them. If they have wives or other women with them (many times wealthy women) they would not need the support of the church. The sense here is more likely to mean if they had wives and children along with them they had a right to insist upon the maintenance of them as well.
Some have thought this reference to taking a wife means that Paul had a wife too, like the other apostles. But there is no evidence for that and it is perfectly logical that Paul is talking about the principle of the thing and not the actuality.
These verses bring up a number of issues. Some of which we will deal with in subsequent gemz and some I won't get into. The matter of Paul chosing to not be like the other apostles in earning a living from the gospel and the implications of that. (Paul worked at his trade, and so it seems did Barnabas. Paul worked with Aquila and Priscilla as tentmakers) The issue of the celibacy of the clergy, after the Catholic doctrine I will leave to you personally to come to your own conclusions but I would add I see no strong evidence in this verse that that should be the case.
It is clear from this passage, that there was some special hatred or anti-Paul-and-Barnabus feeling. What it was we don’t know specifically. It might have arisen from the opposition of Judaizing teachers, who were offended at Paul and Barnabus’s success among the Gentiles, and who could find no other cause of complaint against them than that they chose to support themselves, and not live in idleness, or to tax the church for their support. It was clearly an ongoing niggling opposition which at times surfaces in Paul’s writings.
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