What does 1 Corinthians 9:2 mean?
ESV: If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
NIV: 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.
NASB: 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.
CSB: If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you, because you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
NLT: Even if others think I am not an apostle, I certainly am to you. You yourselves are proof that I am the Lord’s apostle.
KJV: If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.
Verse Commentary:
Paul is clearly defending his authority, but it's unclear against whom he is speaking. Presumably, some "others" have challenged whether he is a legitimate apostle. Perhaps some groups of Christians disputed whether Paul was in the same category as men like Peter or John. Perhaps Paul is emphasizing that he has not been personally involved with all other churches. Nevertheless, he has been an apostle to the church in Corinth. The church exists because of his ministry there.

Paul describes the Christians in Corinth as the seal of his apostleship in the Lord. Their conversion is the most compelling evidence of the validity of his role as Christ's apostle. Their place in God's family, their growth in the Holy Spirit, prove that Paul is a genuine apostle.

Paul emphasizes this point for a reason: he is going to show he has not been claiming his rights as an apostle, for the good of others. In the same way, he is asking the Corinthians to show love for brothers and sisters in Christ by choosing to not claim their right to eat idol food.
Verse Context:
First Corinthians 9:1–18 describes Paul's case for why he, as an apostle, has the right to ask for financial support from the people he serves, including the Corinthian Christians. Though he could demand, Paul refuses to insist on his right. He doesn't want anything to get in the way of someone hearing the gospel. He must preach the gospel; he has no choice. But Paul wants to be able to boast about offering the gospel free of charge even though he has the right to ask for financial support. This passage establishes that believers have an obligation to support those who serve through ministry. This message is made more valid since Paul is not benefitting from his own argument.
Chapter Summary:
Paul encourages Christians to willingly give up their ''rights'' for the good of those who are weak in their faith. Paul shows that he, too, has given up his rights, including the right as an apostle to receive financial support from those he serves. Instead, he boasts that he serves the Corinthians without any compensation, even at great cost to himself. Paul describes himself as an athlete competing for the prize of a crown in eternity. His point is for believers to pursue godliness, and the good of others, with that kind of commitment.
Chapter Context:
First Corinthians 8 ended with Paul's declaration that he would give up his right to eat any meat rather than cause a brother in Christ to stumble. He shows in this chapter that he is already giving up his right as an apostle to be financially supported by those he serves. He doesn't want anything to get in the way of anyone believing the gospel. He limits his freedoms further by becoming all things to all people to win some for Christ. He disciplines himself like an athlete in training, to get a prize and to avoid being disqualified. The next passages will expand on this idea of distinguishing what is ''allowed'' from what is ''best.''
Book Summary:
First Corinthians is one of the more practical books of the New Testament. Paul writes to a church immersed in a city associated with trade, but also with corruption and immorality. These believers are struggling to properly apply spiritual gifts and to resist the ungodly practices of the surrounding culture. Paul's letter gives instructions for real-life concerns such as marriage and spirituality. He also deals with the importance of unity and gives one of the Bible's more well-known descriptions of love in chapter 13.
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