In our study of 1 Corinthians chapter nine, we will look at this question and find its answer based on the life and words of the apostle Paul. This may not be the proper religious question to ask but, if we are honest with ourselves, at some point we have all asked ourselves the question.
"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." NIV translation
Paul begins this section of his letter with some questions and a very obvious answer. Throughout Paul's ministry, there were those who denied his apostleship and here he reminds the readers about the qualifications for being called an apostle. He first asks the question of whether he physically saw Jesus or not and the obvious answer is yes as there were witnesses to his experience on the road to Damascus. He also points out the fact that the readers of this letter are the fruit from his ministry as an apostle. There are many today who give themselves the title of apostle and there are many schools who will sell you a supposed degree to be called an apostle but they have no basis in Scripture. An apostle is one who had Jesus physically appear to them and commission them for His work. There is evidence of this commission in the fruit of that ministry.
"This is my defense 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 must work for a living?" NIV translation
Now that Paul has established the fact that he was an apostle, he turns to the rights that the title gives him. He asks whether he does not have the right to support as he works for the Lord and to even take a wife with him as the others did. The obvious answer is that Paul deserved these things as Jesus taught that a worker deserves his wages.
As we see, Paul did not demand this right but instead worked as a tentmaker so that he did not need the support of the church. There are many, today, that serve the Lord for what they get out of it either directly from the congregations or indirectly by peddling their books, tapes, etc. to the churches. They are free to do that just as we saw, in chapter 8, that the people were free to eat the meat.