“Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? 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.” (1 Corinthians 9:1–2, AV)
On the wall of my office is a piece of paper. On it there are a few signatures and an embossed seal. The paper is my diploma from the seminary where I received a Doctor of Theology degree. The seal authenticates the genuineness of the diploma and indicated that the work I did was sufficient to meet the standards of the Seminary and receive the degree.
Paul here stated that there was a seal of his apostleship. The word “seal,” sphragis, refers to a stamp impressed as a mark of genuineness (Strong G4973). It was used historically just as the embossed stamp on my diploma today. It was a stamp that would be used to seal a letter or correspondence, to seal a box with a commodity that was being sold. The seal carried the authority of the one who affixed it as a guarantee that the contents were genuine and unaltered.
Here, Paul uses this word, “seal,” figuratively. Rather than a literal stamp impressed to mark something, he mentions that the church in Corinth is the mark or seal of his work as an apostle. It was a living seal of the genuineness of his work as an apostle. He indicated that while others might argue that he was not an apostle, those in the church would see that it was so to them. It is so because Paul poured his life and heart into them. Paul spent eighteen months in Corinth establishing the church and grounding the believers in the truth. It is natural that this church would see Paul as an apostle as testified by his work there.
As we look to Paul’s apostleship and the church being the seal of his apostolic ministry, we can draw a parallel in life today. As believers in Jesus Christ, we all have a ministry. Is it not the believers who are called to do the works of ministry? (Eph 4:11-12). Consider just some of these. Let us start in the home. In the Christian home, the parents are the prime disciple-makers of their children. The work in the family itself is the seal of their role as Christian parents.
In the church, the pastor who pours out his heart for the benefit of the church family is doing a great work. The congregation itself is the seal that authenticates the genuineness of the pastor’s work. The same can be said of any leader or faithful servant in the church.
When we consider all of this, are we not moved to serve more faithfully and diligently by God’s grace? Won’t we seek the Lord more in prayer, realizing the blessings that He has granted us in serving His church? As believer, we have an awesome work. Realize that the fruit of our ministry, the people whom we bless, are the seal of authentication for our ministry in the Lord.