1 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?
2 If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.
3 My defense to those who examine me is this:
4 Do we have no right to eat and drink?
5 Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas?
6 Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?
Am I not free? (v.1) — appears first in the best manuscripts — referring to his subject in chapter 8 on Christian liberty
seen Jesus (v.1) — on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:17; 1 Corinthians 15:8)
seal (v.2) — the impression made by a seal — the church in Corinth was proof of Paul’s apostleship
my defense (v.3) — referring back to what he said in verses 1-2
eat and drink (v.4) — referring to his right to be supported by the church — not referring to the issue of eating meat offered to idols in chapter 8
a believing wife (v.5) — referring to his right to be supported again — in this case so he can support and travel with a wife (even though Paul wasn’t married)
Some, at least, of the 12 apostles, including Peter, and some, or all, of the Lord’s brothers (James, Jude?) were married (v.5).
Even though Paul had the right to support for himself and his family, he renounced those rights (and the right to be married) for the sake of his ministry, while at the same time still proclaiming those rights.
In this chapter, Paul illustrates the appeal made in chapter 8, that the Corinthian Christians refrain from exercising their rights and using their Christian liberty, when to do so would hinder weaker brethren spiritually. This he does by using himself as an illustration, and gives them his own practice in the use of his apostolic rights. He points out in particular his reasons for refusing to be maintained by the church. — Greene, pages 291-292.
Paul was showing that he really did give up his rights as he claimed in 8:13.
Barnabas and I (v.6) — the first missionary journey — they didn’t rely upon support from the churches