Commentary on First Corinthians

 January 22, 2013
Commentary on First Corinthians
By: Tom Lowe
Topic #7: Questions Concerning Christian Freedom, 1 Corinthians 8.1-11.1

 

 

Lesson 7.4: Support of an Apostle
 Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9.7-14


1 Cor 9.7-14 (KJV)

7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?
9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?
12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? 14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.


Introduction

In the following verses (vs. 7-14) Paul introduces six successive arguments to prove the right of a minister to be supported by his congregation.
1. From the ordinary laws of human justice (1 Corinthians 9:7).
2. By analogy, from the Law of Moses (1 Corinthians 9:8-10).
3. From the obligations of common gratitude (1 Corinthians 9:11).
4. From their concession of the right to others who had inferior claims (1 Corinthians 9:12).
5. From the Jewish provision for the maintenance of priests (1 Corinthians 9:13).
6. By the rule laid down by Christ himself (vs. 14).


Commentary

7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

Here is Paul's FIRST ARGUMENT and there are three illustrations, taken from people's ordinary occupations that demonstrate the principle of payment received for service rendered. The soldier, the farmer, and the shepherd all live by their labor; why shouldn’t the minister have the same right to compensation? His work is as complicated, as laborious, and as useful as theirs; is there any reason why he should not receive compensation?

In an army, the soldiers are supported (Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?); the farmer is fed by the field he plants (Who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof?); the shepherd is supported by the sheep he cares for (Who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?).

Therefore, it should not seem out of the ordinary to the Corinthian Christians that Paul has the right to be supported by the people he ministers to.

Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges?
Here is an analogy taken from the payment of soldiers. The Christian pastor is a soldier in the Lord’s army, and his weapons are unique, according to 2 Corinthians 10:4: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” A soldier (or warrior) has a right to his wages. The Christian ministry is compared to warfare, and the Christian minister to a soldier: “Timothy, my child, I'm giving you this order about the prophecies that are still coming to you: Use these prophecies in faith and with a clear conscience to fight this noble war” (1 Tim 1:18; GW). The Christian life is often compared to warfare (or to a struggle for victory; see Ephesians 6:10-17, 1 Corinthians 9:7, 2 Corinthians 10:4), and the services of the Christian minister are equated to those of a soldier: “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ…No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Tim 2:3-4; KJV).
 
The meaning of this part of the verse (first part) is that he should boldly go into battle as a Christian and a minister in that holy service in which he was appointed, and endeavor to secure the victory. He is engaged in a “good war” if his cause in righteous. He is a “good soldier,” who is faithful to his commander and to his post; who is attentively observing the motions of the enemy, and fearless in courage when engaging with them; who never forsakes his flag, and who continues faithful until the period of his enlistment is over, or until he passes away in death. The Christian minister should be such a soldier.

Have you ever heard of a soldier who went to war, at any time, who paid his way there and paid all his own expenses? The soldier has a right to receive pay from the one who employed him. He will not go at his own expense. This was a matter of general fairness; and this was the principle adhered to by all those who enlisted as soldiers. Accordingly, Paul says it is only fair that the soldier of the Lord Jesus should be supported by those who employed him, and he should not be required to support himself. And why, some may ask, should he receive any less maintenance than the man who devotes his strength, and time, and talents to the defense of his country? The work of the ministry is as demanding, and as self-denying, and perhaps as dangerous, as the work of a soldier; and common fairness, demands that anyone who devotes his youth, and health and life to benefitting others should have a livable salary. Shouldn’t a person who seeks to save people be as well compensated, as the man who lives to destroy them? Paul’s meaning is, that since ministers of the Gospel are the good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and are engaged in spiritual warfare, in fighting the good fight of faith, against the enemies of God, it is only reasonable that they receive a fair salary from those they minister to.

who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof?
This is the second illustration to show that ministers of the gospel have a right to support. The argument goes like this: It is logical that those who labor should receive fair compensation. A man who plants a vineyard does not expect to labor for nothing; he expects to be paid for his labor, and he looks to the owner of the vineyard for his pay. The vineyard owes its beauty, growth, and fruitfulness to him. It is reasonable; therefore, that he should receive compensation for his work from the vineyard owner. “So, you can say, we labor for our wellbeing. We obtain benefits from our hard work . We spend our time, and strength, and talent for your benefit; and therefore, it is reasonable that we should be paid while we labor for your good.” The church of God is often compared to “a vineyard;” and this adds to the beauty of this illustration.

The church, in Scripture, is called a vineyard: “Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:…And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes” (Isaiah 5:1-2; KJV). The plants are the Lord’s, but he uses the ministers’ hands to plant them. Everyone who plants a vineyard expects that there will be fruit at harvest time; if he hires laborers to plant and tend the vines, and pick the fruit, he anticipates that he will have to pay them the wage they have agreed upon. The church of Christ is a vineyard, and it is often called by that name in Scripture; ministers are planters, vinedressers, and laborers in the vineyard.

or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?
This is the third illustration, to show that ministers have a right to support. The word “feedeth” ( ποιμαίνει poimainei) means not only "to feed,” but to guard, protect, defend, as a shepherd does his flock. The wages of the shepherds in the Middle East does not consist of actual money, but instead they take part of the milk of the flocks which they tend. Consequently, Spon says of the shepherds in modern Greece, “These shepherds are poor Albanians, who feed the cattle, and live in huts built of rushes; they have a tenth part of the milk and of the lambs which is their whole wages; the cattle belong to the Turks.” The shepherds in Ethiopia, also, according to Alvarez, have no pay except the milk and butter which they obtain from the cows, and on which they and their families subsist.”

The argument here is this: “A shepherd spends his days and nights in guarding his flock. He leads his flock to green pastures, he conducts them to still waters—“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalms 23:2; KJV); he defends them from enemies; he guards the young, the sick, the feeble, etc. He spends his time protecting them and providing for them. He expects to be compensated for his time and labor, whether he is in the wilderness or in green pastures; mainly from the milk which the flock furnishes. He labors for their comfort; and therefore, it is right and proper that he should derive his maintenance from them, and he has a right to it. So the minister of the gospel watches over the souls of his flock. He devotes his time, strength, learning, and talents, to their welfare. He instructs, escorts, directs, and defends; he endeavors to guard them against attacks by their spiritual enemies, and to lead them in the path of comfort, righteousness and peace. He lives to instruct the ignorant; to warn and secure those who are in danger; to guide the confused; to reclaim the wandering; to comfort the afflicted; to bind up the broken in heart; to visit the sick; to be an example and a teacher to the young; and to be a counselor and a good-example to all. As he labors for their good, it is right and reasonably that they should minister to his earthly needs, and compensate him for his efforts to promote their happiness and salvation. And can anyone say that this is not right and fair?

Soldiers expect to be paid for their service. Husbandmen and shepherds expect to get a livelihood out of their labors. If they plant vineyards, and dress and cultivate them, it is with the expectation that fruit will appear; if they feed a flock, it is with the expectation of being fed and clothed by it! Who would go to war, if he had to provide for all his own needs? Note, it is very natural, and very reasonable, for ministers to expect a livelihood out of their labors.

The principle of remuneration can be observed everywhere in human affairs. However difficult it may be to lay down an absolute law that would determine the fair wage for every job, profession, occupation, etc, it may be stated as a accepted principle that labor must be paid in a manner, or in an amount that will maintain the laborer in life; to enable him to bring up a family which is not burdensome to society, and to provide for him some reserve that can be used by him for his own enjoyment and improvement.

8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

“Say I these things” refers to verse 7 and the three illustrations, taken from people's ordinary occupations that demonstrate the principle of payment received for service rendered.

To speak “as a man” sometimes means speaking according to the perverse judgment of the flesh.  A good illustration of this notion is found in this verse: “But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)” (Romans 3:5; KJV). I hope that the Lord’s Christians would never believe that our unrighteousness could serve to commend and illustrate the mercy of God, by Him keeping and fulfilling to us the promise which he made to our forefathers? The more wicked we are, the more his faithfulness to his ancient promise is to be admired. And if so, would not God appear unjust in taking vengeance and casting us off? “I speak as a man”—as a man, I feel sympathetic toward both myself and my countrymen, because of our circumstances, and it is natural for one to speak as I do. I hope you can see the fallacy of this line of reasoning.

Here, however, the meaning is different; what Paul is saying here is this: “In accordance with man’s opinion,  these natural illustrations (see verse 7) have no spiritual application?” Since God feeds the shepherd from the flock, does that same God not expect His flock to feed His undershepherd—pastor, evangelist, or missionary? Since the planter of the vineyard gathers fruit from that vineyard, does not God expect the vineyard in which the pastor serves to feed that pastor.

No doubt some were arguing that there was no scriptural instruction concerning the support of the Apostle Paul, pointing out that the Law of Moses did not specifically determine how the minister should earn his bread; but Paul showed these critics they were wrong. Paul’s argument made sense from a human point of view, but it did not need to end there, because his words held the authority of Scripture. Paul uses the Law of Moses to make his case in the two verses that follow.

9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?


Paul has introduced another argument to prop up his opinion on support for pastors. He claims here that the Old Testament teaches the right of maintenance for those who teach the Word. Many have impugned his use of Scripture in this case. It has been said that he shows disdain for the literal sense of the Old Testament. That is NOT true. All that Paul claims is that the passage in Deuteronomy has a deeper significance than the literal sense. Both senses, the literal and the allegorical (both are spiritual senses), are found in the passage.

“Doth God take care for oxen?” The literal sense of the question must NOT be promoted. The Greek construction is such that the answer, “no” is expected. Paul’s meaning is that God’s care is not primarily for animals, but for men: “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth”…“The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God”…“These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season” (Psalms 104:14, 21, 27; KJV). God takes care of man and of all those animals which are so necessary to the convenience, comfort, and nourishment of man.
 
“That treadeth out the corn” is “while treading out the corn” in the Greek. This concerns the separation of the grain from the husk. The oxen were used to drag the threshing instrument over the grain, and while working in this manner the ox was muzzled; his mouth was left free in order for him to eat as he threshed grain. The truth clearly set forth here is that those who produce food for others ought to share in it themselves. Paul fed the Corinthian believers the Spiritual meat, bread, and milk, and it was only right in the sight of God that they take care of his earthly needs.

Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 25.4: “Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn.”

This statement from the Law of Moses undoubtedly carried much weight with those Jews in the assembly at Corinth who were bitterly opposing Paul and his Gospel.

Since Paul has brought Spiritual benefits to the Corinthians, he deserves material benefits from them. Others served the church at Corinth, since he is no longer there. They also deserve to be supported by the church. Since Paul founded the church, he has a prior claim for material support. It is impossible to tell what specific persons he has in mind; perhaps it includes Apollos: “And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples” (Acts 19:1; KJV).

10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

Verse 10 continues the line of thought that was begun with verse 9.

It is interesting that Paul reaches into the Book of Deuteronomy and uses this verse in his letter to the Corinthian Christians. “For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?” It establishes the fact that the Law of Moses was the voice of God speaking. This quotation also illustrates the fact that there are certain statements in the Word of God which, even though relating to the natural and physical are designed to convey spiritual truths that need to be seen and understood. And then he adds… “Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? (1 Cor. 9:9–11). Do you see how Paul is applying this? He is saying, “Pay your preacher.” “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). The man who is ministering to you in spiritual things is feeding you spiritual food. You, in turn, are to feed him with material things. That is how Paul is applying this verse.

“For our sakes, no doubt, this is written.”

Certainly, if this principle can be applied to the brute beast, it should be applied much more to mankind in general.

“That he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.”

That is, he should be rewarded. It is only natural and right, but more than that, it is scriptural that one should expect profit from his labors.

The law says this about oxen for our sakes. Note, those who labor to do our souls good should NOT have their mouths muzzled, but have food provided for them. He argues from common fairness: “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?”(v.11). What they had sown was much better than they expected to reap. They had taught them the way to eternal life, and labored energetically to put them in possession of it. Surely, it was not in the least bit out of line, that while they were involving themselves in this great work, to expect to be supported in their own worldly life. They had been God’s instruments to convey to them the greater spiritual blessings; and that should be reason enough for them to claim as great a share in their carnal things as was necessary to support them? Note, those who enjoy spiritual benefits by the ministry of the word should not begrudge maintenance to those who are employed in this work. If they have received a real benefit, one would think they could not refuse them this. Does it show gratitude or fairness to do them so much good, and yet receive so little in return?

Paul is not suggesting here that God does not like animals. God does care for the animal kingdom—a truth which Jesus taught in Matthew 6.26: “Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they?” Neither does Paul mean that God is not thinking of the oxen at all. The Greek word translated “altogether” in verse 10 signifies “as doubtless it is.” That is, “There is no doubt this is written for our sakes, to set forth the truth that he who ploweth should plow in hope, and he that thresheth in hope should be a partaker of this hope.”

The same is true in the spiritual life. We, who sow spiritual things, feeding the church from the Word of God, should do so in hope and faith, trusting the Lord to take care of our physical needs through those to whom we minister. If animals are allowed to share in the food they help to produce, then surely God will take care of a minister whom He called, ordained and sent as His undershepherd. Indeed, He will take care of His own.

Paul testifies, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content… And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:11, 19; ASV). God will supply our every need—through one source or another. Paul was trying to get the believers in Corinth to understand that if they did not give to the support of ministers and supply their physical needs, the believers themselves would be losers—they would lose in rewards.

11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

Paul’s third illustration grew out of verse 10 and his discussion of Deuteronomy 25.4, but it concerned a basic principle of community reciprocity: beneficial service should be rewarded. If Paul had been used to bring spiritual riches to the Corinthians—“that in everything ye were enriched in him, in all utterance and all knowledge” (1 Cor 1:5; ASV)—material recompense was surely not too much to expect.

Paul asked the question, "Am I not free," as he opened this chapter (v. 1). He asked the question in order to assert the right of his companions and himself to exercise their personal judgment on all ambiguous matters where there is no direct ruling from the Lord. In the case of the Corinthian Church he asserts these rights even more firmly than any other apostle might have done, because under Christ he was the founder of that church. Undoubtedly, in his mind the Christian ministry has its rights as well as its privileges; and freedom of thought within the range of the gospel with which it is entrusted, the right to marry and to the adequate material maintenance of home life are to be ranked among them. As we have seen, Paul reinforces his statements with quotations from scripture and illustrations drawn from everyday life.

When the apostle says, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things,” he is comparing preachers of the Gospel to sowers of seed; the seed they sow is the word of God, which is like seed, because of its smallness and dreadfulness in the eyes of carnal men; however, just as the choicest seed is laid aside for sowing, the Gospel is most choice and excellent to true believers; like seed, it has a generative quality through divine influence. And unless seed is sown into the soil, it will not produce fruit; likewise, neither does the word of God, unless it has a place in the heart, where, like seed in the ground, it can increase gradually, and produce fruit in the life of the believer; and new life in the heart of a new Christian. The sower, after he has cast his seed into the soil, must wait long and patiently for it to spring up and increase; so do the faithful dispensers of the Gospel: and what they sow or minister is of a spiritual nature; it comes from the Spirit of God; He is the one who directs it; He qualifies men to preach it, and by His power men are born-again.

The argument that Paul makes here is based upon the concept of common equity; what is fair: If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? What they had sown was much better than they expected to reap. They had taught them the way to eternal life, and then they worked hard to bring them to where they were willing to accept it. Certainly, it was not too much to expect that while they were involved in this work, they would receive support for their own secular life. They had been God’s instruments for bringing to them great spiritual blessings; so it is only fair for them to share in their carnal things; as much as is necessary for them to make ends meet. Note, those who enjoy spiritual benefits by the ministry of the word should not begrudge maintenance to those who are employed in this work.

Notice that Paul used the personal pronoun “WE” twice, denoting the ministers—Paul, Timothy, Titus and others who had sowed spiritual things in their assembly. Then he uses “YOUR carnal things,” to stress the difference between the ministers and members of the assembly. He asks, “is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?”  That is, “Can the necessities of the body be compared to the necessities of soul and spirit?”Jesus asked, “For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?” (Matt 16:26; ASV). With such a great difference in value, we dare not compare spiritual things with carnal.

12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.

If others be partakers of this power over you,
This does not mean any tyrannical power and jurisdiction that some had over them, with respect to the practice of religion; but the right to maintenance (the teacher’s privilege of partaking of the believers material things), which either the false apostles, Judaizers (who were perverting the gospel and attempting to put the believers partially back under the law of Moses), or the true ministers of the word there, claimed, and did enjoy. It is interesting, that the Judaisers had taken the right (whether it was theirs or not) to be maintained by the believers in the assembly at Corinth. They had no right, but they had taken it, nevertheless. Paul had earlier alluded to the ministry of Peter (Cephas): “Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a believer, even as the rest of the apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?” (1 Cor 9:5; ASV). Though it has not been confirmed, it is probable that Peter ministered in Corinth: “Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos: and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Cor 1:12; ASV); (also see I Corinthians 3.22, 15.5)—and was supported during that time by the church. The same is probably also true of Apollos (see 1.12, 3.4-6, 22; 16.12). If the church supported them, their founding father Paul was no less deserving.

are not we rather?
Who has given greater evidence of the apostolic mission? Who had labored more or who has done you more good than Paul and Barnabas, especially Paul, who was more than an ordinary minister; an apostle, and the first to preach the Gospel to them. Note, Ministers should be valued and provided for according to their worth. It was Paul and his helpers—not those conceited, self appointed Judaizers—who were worthy of support.

Nevertheless we have not used this power;
Paul had the right to be supported by the church, but he had never exercised that right, because he did not want to hinder the response of anyone to the gospel. Had he been materially recompensed for his ministry, some might have assumed he was simply another itinerate preacher motivated by profits—“At least we don't go around selling an impure word of God like many others…” (2 Cor 2:17; GW)—and would have refused him a hearing. To avoid being a stumblingblock—“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (1 Cor 8:9; KJV)—to any, Paul relinquished the right to receive support from those to whom he ministered. Paul and others (perhaps Barnabas) had not demanded their right for support, however they had worked to earn their own living and not be a burden to the church. Paul was not required to work this way, but he chose to put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
“But suffer all things” is the story of Paul’s life, for he suffered many things as he preached the gospel among the heathen: famine, thirst, nakedness, hard labor, and many other hardships. He put up with the hardships of “working two jobs” so that no pagan inquiring about Christianity would be put off by the financial obligation of supporting a missionary. A minister of the gospel who is true to his calling will suffer lack of material things rather than bring reproach upon the gospel. Many times a minister could request many things that he needs for the comforts of life, but fearing that he may bring reproach upon the gospel by someone accusing him of preaching for money, he suffers the loss of these things, and carries on without them.

“Lest we should hinder the Gospel of Christ” suggests that some might imply, that they preached the Gospel only for monetary gain, and not for the salvation of souls, and the glory of Christ. Some people criticized the traveling Greek philosophers who accepted fees for popular lectures. Socrates believed that a teacher who accepted money for his work would not speak as freely with his audience as he might otherwise. Paul renounced his right to support, since by claiming it he could hinder his success. He denied himself, for fear of offending a weaker brother; but asserted his right to support for fear that his self-denial would prove prejudicial to the ministry. It is plain, in this case, that justice, and not self-love, is the principle by which the apostle is motivated.

In order not to “hinder the gospel of Christ,” the Apostle Paul continues to “suffer all things.” Paul is not justifying something he did, but only something that he has the right to do, a right which he did not exercise. Paul has a right to be supported for his work. Yet, he doesn’t want to do anything that would hinder the gospel of Christ. Therefore he doesn’t receive any remuneration; he supports himself by plying his trade, which is tentmaking. If he would have accepted support, he would have gained financially, but he would have lost morally and spiritually; because God called him to win souls—not to get ahead financially.

In our day there are many religious rackets. To say there are not is to be as blind as a bat. Unfortunately, there are men who make merchandise of the gospel of Christ—there is no doubt about it. However, it is God’s method that those who have a spiritual ministry are to be supported by those who benefit.

13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?

Do ye not know, that they which minister about holy things
The phrase “Do ye not know” implies that the readers should have known and understood the fact that Paul was presenting. He is presenting his FIFTH ARGUMENT to support his claim that he had a right to receive maintenance from those whom he ministered to—The Church at Corinth. He began this argument in 9.7, but now he expands on it by giving two more examples of his right to receive support. Once again he points back to the Law of Moses and the temple priests to illustrate how they relate to the minister and things that are sacred. There are three passages that should be read at this point since they have to do with the maintenance of the priests and Levites—Leviticus 6.16-26, Numbers 18.8-19, Deuteronomy 18.1-4.

“They which minister” does Not include the priests in the temples of the Heathen gods, as the Ethiopic version suggests; but here it is the priests in the temple at Jerusalem, who were employed in slaying the sacrifices, taking off their skins, cutting them into pieces, laying them on the wood upon the altar, and burning them, along with other services they performed, which were well known to the Corinthians, since many in this church were Jews. They would have considered that those “serving in the temple or at the altar” were working and therefore they derived their livelihood from the job. It may be that Paul's mention, in the previous verse, of not being a “hindrance” to the gospel, was precisely what prompted the thought of the rich extravagance and gratuity of all priests, pagan and Jewish, and of the “hindrance” which the conduct of such priests certainly causes.

Barclay gave a detailed account of all the profitable benefits which Jewish priests claimed under the temple system, pointing out that, at a time when the average family had meat only once a week, many of the priests were suffering “from an occupational disease caused by eating too much meat.”  They had grown lazy, wealthy, and contemptuous of the poor. Paul would not be LIKE THEM. Nevertheless, Paul did not deny, but rather affirmed, the appropriateness of the servants of temples living from the temple revenues, the application being that ministers of the gospel should live from the revenues of the churches.

live of the things of the temple?
When the appointed priests of God made the peace offering on the altar, a portion of the offering was consumed on the alter and a portion of it was designated for the priest’s personal use. The priests were made rich by almost everything that was brought into the temple by those desiring to worship God: tithes and firstfruits, and other offerings, and presents in money or goods. This system was designed by God for the priests and Levites, since they had no other way to earn a living and support their families. The priests and Levites had no inheritance among the children of Israel, and therefore provision was made for them in this way. Many of them were rich and lived lavishly, which is apparent from the liberal gifts of one family of Levites for Passover Offerings, “Conaniah and his brothers Shemaiah and Nethanel, and Hashabiah, Jeiel, and Jozabad, the leaders of the Levites, gave the Levites 5,000 sheep and goats and 500 bulls as Passover sacrifices” (2 Chron 35:9; (GW).

and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?
The priests were constantly beside the alter to offer sacrifices. The priests and Levites always stood in their ministry, some doing one thing, and some another; some slew the sacrifice, others sprinkled the blood; some took away the ashes, others laid the wood, others brought up the parts of the sacrifice when slain, skinned, and cut it up, and laid the pieces on the altar; some parts the altar consumed by fire; but then there were other pieces which by law were reserved for the priests, and upon which they and their families lived. The priests were appointed by God just as Paul had been appointed; and if they lived off the things brought into the temple; why shouldn’t Paul be taken care of by those to whom he ministered. They were his own children in the faith, since they had been born again through the message he had delivered unto them.

14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

Even so hath the Lord ordained
“Ordained” means appointed; required; ordered. The Lord Jesus Christ is the One who ordained that his ministering servants, who labor in preaching His Gospel, should be sufficiently taken care of, so that they and their family can live comfortably. Just as the priest who served in the temple lived off the things of the temple, “even so,” God has ordained that His ministers be taken care of, by those to whom they minister. Just as God gave commands concerning the priests and Israel, the Lord Jesus gave instructions concerning His servants.
• And in that same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. (Luke 10:7; ASV)
• Get you no gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses…no wallet for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff: for the laborer is worthy of his food. (Matt 10:9-10; ASV)

God’s will is the same under the New Testament as it was under the Old; it is not a matter of liberty, so men are not free to chose whether they will support their ministers or not, there is an ordinance of God in this case: it is the will of God, that those who withdraw from worldly occupations, and spend their time in the study of God’s Word and in the preaching of the gospel, should receive a fair wage for their labor.

This is Paul’s SIXTH ARGUMENT, and it shows that he was at least orally familiar with the discourses of Christ; however, there is nothing impossible or improbable in the supposition that some of the teachings of Christ were already being circulated in manuscript form. It was the Lord's ordinance, even if Paul did not exercise the power in the Lord’s ordinance; that those who preach the gospel should be sustained by the church.

that they which preach the Gospel
By this is meant, those who do the work of the ministry completely and faithfully, and are not Gospel preachers in name only: should live off the Gospel; not the Gospel itself, which is spiritual, and not bodily food; but the sense is, that in consideration of their preaching the Gospel, they should be supplied with the proper necessaries of life. The Greek word that has been rendered here as “Gospel” denotes good news and glad tidings, but other writers have used it to mean, “a reward, given to them that bring good tidings;” and the Hebrew word, which signifies the same thing, is used in a like sense in 2 Samuel 4:10—“When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings” (2 Sam 4:10; KJV)—and accordingly the sense here will be, that it is the command of Christ, that those who faithfully bring the news and glad tidings of salvation to sinners, should, as a reward for such good news, be provided for with a comfortable maintenance (salary).

Should live of the Gospel.
The churches were required to honor those who preach the Good News, and those who served among the believers should be supported by those who benefitted from their ministry. This command from God allowed travelling missionaries and local ministers to focus entirely on the spread of the Gospel and the growth of the church, and not be concerned about making money.

The support of the ministers of Christ who devote their lives to the preaching of the Gospel is not a charitable donation, but a debt rightly due, and cannot be withheld without doing injustice to them, and dishonor to Christ.

The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should make their living from the gospel: This summary statement is conclusive. Some might say, “Yes, the apostles had the right to be paid, but no one today has that right.” But this command from the Lord means that anyone who preaches the gospel has the right to be supported by those he preaches to, and the Lord’s commands do not have an expiration date. Consider the following:
1. Should modern ministers assert or release their right to be supported? Whichever will serve the gospel and the church better! But if a minister does take money for support, he should work hard to earn that money.
2. If a man who does not labor takes his maintenance from the Church of God, it is not only a domestic theft but a sacrilege. He that gives up his time to this labor has a right to the support of himself and his family: he who takes more than is sufficient for this purpose is a covetous hireling. He who does nothing for the cause of God and religion, and yet obliges the Church to support him, is a monster for whom human language has not yet got a name.

It is not wrong for the minister who has been a blessing to his people to be supported by the people. I have discovered that, when people receive a blessing, for the most part they will support the place where they get their blessing.

Do you have any questions or comments?

 An estimated one hundred million Christians have been martyred in this century. That’s more than the previous nineteen centuries combined.

SBC Life, Oct. 1996

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